For January, we are continuing our dialogue with a second round that focuses on movements in East and Southeast Asia. The Occupy Central and Umbrella movements in Hong Kong have attracted the attention not only of social movement scholars, but of the global media as well. As the world watches the movement engage the governments of Hong Kong and China, we want to take a step back and reflect on the work the movement has done to bring it to this point, as well as on movements in broader East and Southeast Asia. Keeping in mind that movements emerge in particular contexts, we asked our contributors to focus on the ways that movements in the region have particular challenges and tools. We consider such questions such as: How have technology, the Internet, and broader media played a facilitating or suppressing role in Southeast Asian movements? How have the traditional religions of the region, and the imported religions of colonizing powers, influenced movements there? How has the emergence of China as a world power affected movements in the region? To what extent have international forces, transnational movements, and diffusion played a role in supporting movements in the region? What have movements in the region taught us about repression and authoritarian states? Thank you to all of our contributors for their submissions, below is a list of their essays.
Andrew Junker, University of Chicago (essay)
Cole Carnesecca, University of Notre Dame (essay)
Ming-sho Ho, National Taiwan University (essay)
Setsuko Matsuzawa, The College of Wooster (essay)
Victoria Tin-Bor Hui, University of Notre Dame (essay)
Paul Y. Chang, Harvard University, (essay)
Yan Long, Stanford University (essay)
Vince Boudreau, The City College of New York (essay)
Jolan Hsieh, National Dong Hwa University (essay)
Yang Su, UC Irvine (essay)
Chris King-Chi Chan, City University of Hong Kong (essay)
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Dan Myers
In October the principal of Hong Kong’s Shung Tak Catholic English College posted an open letter opposing Occupy Central protests, which was widely circulated and discussed on social media in both Hong Kong and mainland China. The letter asked, “Who will reap the greatest benefits if Hong Kong becomes chaotic? Who will reap the greatest benefits if China becomes chaotic?”1 The principal, Kung Kwong Pui, then accused the United States government for stirring up trouble and destabilizing East Asia.
This was only one episode of an intense battle between the Occupy Central movement and counter-movement over whether western money and training had put protesters on the street. On the one hand, allegations were swirling on how Occupy Central was only a U.S.-financed plot against Beijing’s authority. On the other hand, the primary movement leaders, including Chan Kin-man and Joshua Wong, firmly denied such claim and repeatedly emphasized that umbrella protests were a domestic grassroots movement. Continue reading
The study of social movements in Southeast Asia (as elsewhere) has trouble evaluating contention in formal democracies that are, nevertheless, periodically and often intensely violent. This has been a problem both because of how our theory developed (i.e. the apparatus for examining civil protest was until recently different from that used to evaluate more violent contention) and in terms of the relatively unique historical conjuncture of democratic norms and institutions coexisting with fundamental conflicts, often over first political principles. The last decade of scholarship has done much to eliminate the segregation of protest studies from the study of other modes of contention—most famously in the Dynamics of Contention research program, but also in innovative methodologies inspired from that program designed to capture the contingent nature of mobilization trajectories and contentious forms. These perspectives begin with contentious acts, but leaves the form of their escalation—through subsequent contentious interactions—an open matter. Continue reading
The media has portrayed current Asian demonstrations, such as the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong and the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan, as unsuccessful because the protesters’ requests have not been met. By another measurement, the awareness of issues and recognition of the power possible by targeted and collective peaceful action, they have been very effective.
The long-term residual effectiveness of the Asian movements and other protests across the globe authentically can be measured only in small increments with some of the most significant and basic results at this point not always visible but rather felt at a deeper level of understanding. Protests are influencing people to change their beliefs, mindsets, and attitudes which are psychologically the most difficult elements to modify, but which ultimately are the most potent factors in creating authentic social change. The evidence is that more and more people in increasing numbers of nations are expressing dissenting opinions and demonstrating their right to be heard regarding issues affecting their lives.
Nov. 1, 2014 – Lennon Wall Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Occupy did not end without its share of drama. It started with tear-gas, proceeded with a full course of street scuffs, and concluded with multiple arrests. But it was a far cry from those tragic endings in the past, which still haunt the nation’s memory and stain the regime’s legitimacy. During this 11-week confrontation, while the government gave in no ground to the protestor’s main demand, it instructed its police to use restraints, and it waited until the protest’s low points to clear the protest site. The result is a double victory in the short run: a political status quo and a diffusion of a crisis without bloodied hands. It is a strategy of waiting out. Continue reading
The growing Umbrella Movement has come to an end. Alex Chow, general secretary and student leader from the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), told the media that no further occupation will begin in the short term, but expressed the need to think about other types of movement tactics including general strike and class boycott after the occupy site was cleared in the first day. Continue reading
The Umbrella Movement and Occupy Central with Love and Peace face new challenges now that the occupation seems to have reached its conclusion. First among the challenges is, what to do next? How to keep the movement going in the absence of the tactic that made it a movement at all? I will speak to this issue from the perspective of my research on two other Chinese protest movements that flourished during direct and dramatic confrontations with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and then later faced the dilemma of how to keep each movement going after confrontation ended. These two movements are the Chinese democracy movement of 1989, and especially its diaspora counterpart that mobilized after June 4th, and the religious group Falun Gong, which also mobilized outside of mainland China after homeland repression drove supporters underground. From these two cases, I draw the conclusion that unless Umbrella activists depart from the historically specific tactical repertoire of Chinese democracy activism, the uprising may go the way of June 4th: a wonderful flash in the pan of liberal spirit but ultimately a failure. Continue reading
During the last quarter century, the Chinese state has been successful in repressing specific types of social movements; those which it considers to be serious threats to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime. Major examples of such repression include the 1999 Falun Gong persecution and the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. Even during the period leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics the Chinese government maintained its repressive stance, despite TAN (Transnational Advocacy Network) pressures, against domestic protests in the Tibet and Xinjiang autonomous regions by conducting a crackdown and media blackout, among other measures. Continue reading
While the Umbrella Movement may ultimately prove lacking in results, it certainly has not lacked in drama. Part of that drama comes from the attempt to locate the Hong Kong protests into a broader legacy of social movements. The image of young Hong Kong students calling for expanded democratic rights drew immediate comparisons to the 1989 Tiananmen protests and the “Occupy Central” part of the movement seemed a clear nod to the Occupy Movement in the United States. Both of these links reflect the transferable nature of protest legacies and the importance of legacy mobility for contemporary protests in China (and beyond). Yet protest legacies can mean very different things to activists and their targets, giving shape to how a movement is understood culturally and structurally, as well as how activists and state agents act. To illustrate this point, I will consider four movement legacies that serve as significant sources for the Umbrella Revolution and their implications for how the Hong Kong protests have unfolded. Continue reading
A Hong Kong student leader, Yvonne Leung, said, “The Hong Kong government needs to take lots of responsibility for what’s going on.”1 She was referring to the government’s responsibility to offer genuine universal suffrage and end the impasse.
Unknown to Leung, her statement echoes the state-centered theory of contention — that it is state policies that inadvertently “construct”2 movements. The Umbrella Movement is no different. At every step of the way, the Chief Executive C. Y. Leung’s policies have backfired, first giving rise to the movement and then fueling it for two months and beyond. Continue reading