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
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
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
This guest essay is written by Dr. Doron Shultziner, an interdisciplinary scholar who studies non-violent struggles for democratic progress, and Kirby Hung, a participant in the umbrella movement in Hong Kong.
The main tent in Mong Kok that was later removed by the police.
Since late September, a historic movement is taking place in Hong Kong which became part of China in 1997. Following a long-awaited period and delays, the Chinese government announced its political reform to allow universal suffrage to Hong Kong citizens but only for 2-3 candidates who will be selected by a pro-Beijing council of 1,200 members. Angry students started a class boycott, which culminated in the storming of the main government building in downtown Hong Kong. Police use of teargas and pepper spray against students who used umbrellas to protect themselves backfired into a huge demonstration of about 100,000 citizens. Several weeks have passed since that event climax and the umbrella movement maintains its momentum.
In this context, a battle of great significance has been taking place in Monk Kok, the second largest protest site of the umbrella movement for democracy in Hong Kong. In a surprise move between 5-9am on Friday (October 17) morning, police forces cleared protesters, tents, and barricades from the busy intersection of Nathan Road and Argyle Street, in what seemed a major setback to the movement. Yet, since Friday evening protesters regained parts of the street in what appears to be a major watershed of the struggle. Continue reading
With the acceleration of market reforms in the 1990s, the Chinese economy and society underwent a series of major changes. The radical shift of economic system records aggregate GDP growth rate of about 10 percent every year. However, recent waves of mass protest across the country reveal the dark side of China’s economic boom. While citizens’ standards of living are continuing to increase, income inequality has grown to a factor of threat. Individuals belonging to losing groups amidst these wrenching changes have increasingly protested. The number of mass incidents, especially the labor incidents is large and increasing, but the exact number is unknown.
In the absence of official government statistics, I would like to recommend two crowd-mapped data sets on labor strikes in China:
1. China Labour Bulletin
This data set keeps tracking of strikes, protests and other contentious, collective actions taken by Chinese workers to defend their rights and interests. It covers the years 2011 to present and its regular research reports have used Chinese newspapers’ websites, dissident blogs, and information from the organization’s call-in radio show. It is constantly being updated.
2. China Strike
This data set is maintained by a PhD candidate in Political Science at Cornell University. It collects news reports of worker protests between January 1, 2008 and April, 2013, counting more than 800 incidents. According to the instructions, “only contentious, collective actions by workers over workplace issues are included. Thus, land disputes or environmental protests, though important in their own right, are excluded from this site.”
A major concern of students of Chinese politics is the reliability of the Chinese official statistics, especially those from the township and village levels. The quality of the published data might come with a large question mark. Generally, statistics on current issues are collected by the National Bureau of Statistics on special requests of the Party Central Committee and the State Council. Obviously, a local Party cadre can signify local achievements in order to make a favorable impression on his or her superiors, or exaggerate a particular social problem in order to receive more resources. Because none of this process is likely to be available to the public, the exaggerations or errors made in local statistics would thus be aggregated at the national levels. Continue reading
Studies of mobilization have long been preoccupied with understanding the effects of repression on protest. However, as Mark Lichbach remarks, the search for models—whether linear, U-shaped, S-shaped, or otherwise—leaves scholars “forever correlating the total aggregate level of one output (government repression) with the total aggregate level of the other output (opposition activity)” (1987: 288). Furthermore, conceptual and analytical inconsistencies persist; aggregated event counts and indicators denoting low, moderate, and high levels of repression vary based on what type of crackdowns “count” as severe and have been accounted for in the media or NGO reports (Davenport 2007).
Because the question “does repression increase or decrease protest?” has dominated the research agenda, I suggest that we revisit our orienting questions. For example, what kinds of repression do activists perceive as severe? Which governmental agents, entities, and affiliates do the repressing, and what does this mean for the short-term outcomes of movement-government standoffs? Which social movements are most at risk for violent repression? And how does the character of a regime shape its propensity for violence? In an effort to expand our conceptualization of the repression-dissent nexus in potentially fruitful and specific ways, I outline several suggestions below. Continue reading
In the realm of technology and repression, last week was filled with both dark and light.
On the lighter side, a Chinese dissident imprisoned using information from Yahoo! was finally released after 10 years. Yahoo! took a great deal of heat for turning over information originally, and settled a civil suit over the affair.
On the dark side, the New York Times reported that two researchers have identified an off-the-shelf surveillance program that can extensively monitor computer activity, including taking screen shots and recording skype conversations, which has been used against activists in multiple countries. It appears that governments that don’t have the resources to design surveillance systems themselves can just use off-the-shelf software instead. Although the maker says that the software is to be used exclusively in criminal investigations, evidence suggests that it sells to governments who intend to use it against protesters.