Explaining spontaneous occupation: antecedents, contingencies and spaces in the Umbrella Movement

Edmund CHENG*, Wai Yin Chan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the antecedent and contingent causes sparking the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. Spurred by two contingent events generating pre-emptive and backlash mobilization, the movement is a spontaneous transformation of the staged Occupy Central campaign. Based on an onsite survey (n = 1681) and in-depth interviews (n = 18), this paper demonstrates how protest experience and social media networked and rallied autonomous individuals from diverse backgrounds to occupy the physical spaces, thereby sustaining a self-mobilized, horizontal and resilient movement. Spontaneity, however, did not come out of nowhere. As an integral part of Hong Kong’s bottom-up activism and ecology, this spontaneous episode encapsulates antecedent events diffusing stalwart actors, decentralized organization and transgressive repertories. This paper situates spontaneity in temporal, spatial and emotional contexts to understand the uncompromising claims and participatory practices of the spectacular occupation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-239
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Hong Kong
  • occupy
  • public space
  • social media
  • social movement
  • Spontaneity
  • Umbrella Movement


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