Category Archives: Movements in East and Southeast Asia

Environmental Movements in China and Their Transnational Dimensions

By Setsuko Matsuzawa

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


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Transposable Protest Legacies

By Cole Carnesecca

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

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How Hong Kong’s Government “Constructed” the Umbrella Movement

By Victoria Tin-Bor Hui

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


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Social Movements and the Political Polarization of South Korean Society

By Paul Y. Chang

For all the dramatic headlines about the debilitating costs associated with the polarization of American politics in recent years, the inability of political parties and factions to engage in constructive debate and dialogue is arguably a greater problem in newer democracies. After all, when was the last time we saw congressional debates escalate into physical fighting between American legislatures on the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives? While this might be unimaginable in America it is, unfortunately, a relatively common occurrence in institutional politics in some Asian nations. In 2012, for example, members of the Thai parliament rushed the House Speaker, Somsak Kiatsuranont, who had attempted to force a discussion of a controversial “reconciliation bill” that Democrat MPs rejected. Between the grabbing and pulling, and under the swirl of documents flying through the air, Somsak Kiatsuranont hurried off the parliament floor behind the protection of security forces (Fredrickson 2012). This and other examples of physical fighting amongst legislators (e.g. Taiwan parliament fighting in 2004, 2006, 2007) are perhaps the clearest and most visible manifestation of polarization in institutional politics. Continue reading

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A Revolt against Chinese Intellectualism: Understanding the Protest Script in Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement of 2014

By Ming-sho Ho

Karl Marx’s famous saying that great historical events happen twice, first as tragedy and later as farce, originated from an observation of the futile attempt of French leftwing revolutionaries of 1848 to ape their predecessors in the revolution of 1789. Marx apparently considered it a paradox that a history-making intention involved borrowing “names, battle slogans, and costumes” from the past. Thus he implied a truly successful revolution would have to proceed without the nostalgic attachment to the previous protest script. Continue reading

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