Victoria Hui, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, has worked in the democracy movement in Hong Kong and now serves on the Academic Advisors Committee of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. She discuss protests in Hong Kong and the Communist Party’s crackdown on social media as Beijing tries to prevent the democratic protest from spreading to the mainland.
International media have reported on how hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong protesters have maintained nonviolent discipline and order. International observers see images common to nonviolent movements around the world: strength in numbers, determined faces in front of riot police, slogans, songs, and more. Beneath such broad strokes of similarities, Hong Kong is unlike other cases given the constitutional structure of “one country, two systems” agreed to between Beijing and London. While Hong Kong has only semi-democracy, people are free to protest. While the police sometimes make arbitrary arrests, the independent judiciary inherited from the colonial era routinely releases activists. This constitutional structure presents a very open political space unseen in the rest of China and yet makes it difficult for activists to mobilize the largely contented population. Against this backdrop, the unprecedented use of riot police and the firing of tear gas seemed to have galvanized popular support for the protesters fighting for genuine democracy and increased sympathy for nonviolent actions.