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  • Mobilization and Protest Participation in Post-handover Hong Kong

Mobilization and Protest Participation in Post-handover Hong Kong

A Study of Three Large-scale Demonstrations

Joseph M. Chan, Francis L. F. Lee


English , 2005/01 HKIAPS, Occasional Paper Series Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, CUHK

Tags: Hong Kong Studies, Journalism & Communication

215 x 140 mm , 43pp ISBN : 978-962-441-159-1

  • US$3.00


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Post-handover Hong Kong has been marked by the occurrence of huge demonstrations, notably on July 1, 2003, January 1, 2004, and July 1, 2004. Drawing on a general public survey and onsite surveys of the afore-mentioned demonstrations, this paper examines the social and psychological factors behind the participation of individuals in demonstrations. It also analyses the processes of mass and interpersonal communication that led to the formation of the large-scale demonstrations. Both the population survey and the onsite surveys demonstrate that the power of social and political organizations to mobilize people to participate in the three demonstrations was limited, although they did provide a rallying point for the public. The participants in the 2003 July 1 demonstration were found to have been driven overwhelmingly by their negative opinions of the Hong Kong government and political system. The results support the deprivation approach to protests rather than the resource model. The evidence regarding the importance of social networks is mixed. On the one hand, the population survey shows that network capital is not a significant factor in predicting the participation of citizens in demonstrations. On the other hand, the onsite surveys indicate that many participants joined the demonstrations with, and in some cases at the suggestion of, their acquaintances. Taken together, these seemingly conflicting findings imply that social networks are embedded in the mobilization process, although they are not exclusive to mobilization. Given that both the "opinion leaders" and "opinion followers" among the demonstrators held negative opinions of the Hong Kong Government, we can conclude that these social networks were more of a conduit through which people with similar opinions came together to participate in the demonstrations than a channel through which their opinions were altered. In other words, social networks served as facilitators, instead of generators, of the formation of demonstrations. The onsite surveys show that the processes of mobilization involved a mix of mass and interpersonal communications. The organizers of the demonstrations and other leaders of social and political groups provided messages of mobilization to the mass media which then served as an important source of information for the group of "opinion leaders," who in turn transmitted the information to the "opinion followers." This stepwise process was most apparent in the 2004 January 1 demonstration, in which opinion leaders were found to pay significantly more attention to the news media and were more likely regard the mass media as the most important source of influence. The followers rated interpersonal influence as the most important. However, this pattern of findings is less clear-cut in the other two demonstrations. Taken as a whole, the findings suggest that the role of the mass media in the build-up to social protests will differ according to the scale of the protests and the social atmosphere prevailing at the time. For smaller protests, organizational mobilization tends to play a more important role, while the mass media have limited influence. In contrast, in larger protests and controversies, the mass media's role in the transmission of information and messages of mobilization is larger, especially among the "opinion leaders" in society.

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