Hong Kong’s Anti-extradition Bill Protests in 2019: Bridging Colonial, Philosophical and Sociological Analysis

Title: 1097 | Hong Kong’s Anti-extradition Bill Protests in 2019: Bridging Colonial, Philosophical and Sociological Analysis
Area: China and Inner Asia
Stream: Political Sciences
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Leung Chau, University of Sydney, Australia (organizer, discussant)
William Chan, University of Warwick, United Kingdom (chair, presenter)
Sin-yui Chan, Lingnan University, Hong Kong (presenter)
Yeuk-nam Ng, Lingnan Univeristy, Hong Kong (presenter)
Samson Yuen, Lingnan University, Hong Kong (discussant)


The protests in Hong Kong fueled by the 2019 extradition bill mark a paradigm shift of both local and global social movements. For one thing, the protests represent the rising localism of Hongkongers and their diminishing faith in "One country, two systems"; for another, the protests exhibit new strategies of resistance, many of which were previously deemed unacceptable by the mainstream public opinion. Some of these strategies are even embraced by protestors in other places, one of them notably being Catalonia. The recent protests in Hong Kong, in short, are closely relevant to the future of the city and the social movements elsewhere. It is therefore worthwhile to ask: what explains, justifies, and can be learnt from the anti-extradition bill protests?

In response to the question, this panel aggregates the wisdom of researchers in the areas of colonial studies, political philosophy and sociology. Chau studies how the incompatibility between the Eastern and Western ways of governing has led to the political dilemmas of Hong Kong today. He also looks at how the demonstrations in the city have inspired new forms of resistance in other countries. Chan attempts to refute three common criticisms about the uncivil resistance in Hong Kong, whereas he notes a danger of indiscriminatorily supporting all uncivil forms of protests. Finally, Chan and Ng, by discourse analysis, consider how the suicide notes of Hong Kong protestors provide a context for shared grievance and visualize a public performance of a nested politicized collective identity.

Panel Abstracts:
Using the Demonstrations of Hong Kong as Method: Rethinking Global Social Movements Through Hong Kong as a Political and Cultural Crossroad
A series of strikes and violent crashes have begun in Hong Kong since June 2019, these massive demonstrations occurring in the city attracted millions of people, and also ‘detonate’ a wave of social movements in the globe, like the following protests happened in Indonesia, Chile, and Catalonia. Hongkongers’ resistance against the China-Extradition bill and the governments of Hong Kong and China, has shown the colonial legacy in Hong Kong has a big struggle with the political reality in mainland China.The handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 did not extirpate the far-reaching influence of British colonialism since 1842. The British colonial ruling in Hong Kong had helped Hongkongers to build completely different understandings on concepts like governing, human rights, and legal system beyond the People’s Republic of China. The protests in 2019 have shown these value-clashes, not only between Hong Kong and mainland China, but also the West and the East. Rather than criticizing those Hong Kong protests happened in 2019 are right or wrong, peaceful or violent, spontaneous or being instigated, they surely underline the distances and conflicts between the East and the West, about the imaginations and interpretations of governing, human rights, and social politics. This paper is going to analyze how Hong Kong’s demonstrations in 2019 show the incompatible factors of government administering and politics between the West and the East, and also how those demonstrations inspire other countries/ cities to develop their social movements more vividly and positively.

What, if Any, Justifies the Uncivil Disobedience in Hong Kong Triggered by the 2019 Extradition Bill?
The 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill and its following events have triggered various acts of disobedience, many of which are uncivil. Acts of uncivil disobedience are generally those, in Delmas's (2018) terms, that are "covert, evasive, anonymous, violent, or deliberately offensive ". However, many disagree about whether the uncivil acts of disobedience in Hong Kong can ever be justified. Are there any reasons, if any, for Hong Kong people to or not to resist in an uncivil manner?To shed light on this question, this article critically assesses three common criticisms about the recent uncivil disobedience in Hong Kong: (a) no acts of uncivil disobedience can be justified, (b) uncivil disobedience tends to lose popular support or divide the protestors, and (c) uncivil disobedience diminishes a peaceful environment for constructive dialogues between protestors and the government.These criticisms, I argue, are misguided. First, there are clear-cut situations in Hong Kong where protestors must resort to uncivil behavior to resist. Second, empirical evidence shows that the uncivil acts of certain individuals have not significantly undermined the mutual trust of Hong Kong protestors and their fellow citizens. Third, uncivil disobedience, compared to its more peaceful alternatives, did more effectively push the Hong Kong government to be responsive to the demands of protestors.Having said that, it is dangerous to indiscriminatorily accept all forms of uncivil obedience. Regular reflections among protestors themselves on which acts of disobedience are justified are essential to achieving their demands in the long run.

Framing the Performance of Politicized Collective Identity in Suicide Protest: Hong Kong Protestors' Suicide Notes as a Case Study
The demonstrations and protests against an extradition bill in Hong Kong have led to a number of suicides with a written note addressed to political figures and the general public. Suicide notes serve to manage the blame accorded to both their author and the recipients, can be symbolic gestures aimed at re-establishing normal aspects of human exchange even in the face of an extreme act, especially when others have somehow failed in their social obligation to the suicidee. Through various acts of protest can be counted as group-based actions with a price can be beneficial to others, suicide protest as a protest tactic with a collective cause serves as an alternative way in which the suicidee bears the highest cost. It is also documented that suicide protest may galvanize the construction and diffusion of collective identity among protestors, their views on the socio-political landscape through the lens of group membership, and their struggle for power with an out-group, contributing to a possible outcome that protestors desire, such as to advance political change and a willingness to fight for the in-group.This paper adopts a discourse analysis from a frame perspective to study how suicide notes of protestors provide a context for shared grievance and visualize a public performance of a nested politicized collective identity. The discourse analysis of the selected suicide notes will be conducted by framing the four core aspects: Diagnosis of social ills, prognosis of movement possibilities, motivation for further actions, and the politicization of protestors’ collective identity

This panel is on Thursday - Session 05 - Room 2

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