Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Minxin Pei

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Within the last five years, the special administrative region of Hong Kong found itself embroiled in two major anti-government protests that brought the entire city to a standstill. While both the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the 2019 AntiELAB Protests were similar in pro-democracy rhetoric and substantive collective action, the 2019 protests devolved into a much more violent and radical movement than that of 2014. This study investigates the factors that contributed to the differing protest cultures of the Umbrella Movement and the AntiELAB Protests. This study first explores the language of the Joint Declaration and Basic Law, and investigates British and Chinese incompetence in handling Hong Kong’s handover in order to show that the city’s transition into becoming a special administrative region fundamentally shaped its current political vulnerabilities. This study then argues that the 2019 AnitELAB Protests were comparatively more anarchic than any previous political movements as a result of five main factors: the triggers of the protests, the differences in political circumstances, the differing socioeconomic environments, the changes in protest strategies, as well as the radicalization of media and technology usage. Through citing Hong Kong’s Basic Law, recent political events, news reporting, socioeconomic statistics, as well as media theory, this study argues that Hong Kong’s unstable position as a temporary liberal democracy under Chinese rule contributed to its increasingly radical protest environment. This study concludes by asserting that only by confronting the city’s political insecurities, promoting democracy, safeguarding citizens’ individual rights, and alleviating socioeconomic inequality, will the government be able to prevent the next large protest that could destroy Hong Kong for good.