Rethinking Contentious Politics in Hong Kong: Change and Continuity

Samson YUEN, Edmund CHENG

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Despite sustaining enviable economic growth after its Handover to China, Hong Kong has witnessed an increasingly contentious society where citizens have continued to protest for their political freedoms. This article is an attempt to rethink the ways of studying popular contention in a subnational, hybrid context, focusing on the case of Hong Kong. How has Hong Kong’s long trajectory of popular protests, despite not being able to bring about institutional changes, reshaped the dynamics and contours of political participation? Departing from what we will identify as the structural– functionalist and neo-institutionalist approaches, we propose to deploy a bottom–up, movement-oriented approach—what we call the “movement field” approach—to identify how state, non-state and quasi-state actors interact to operate between different issues of activism, adopt various contentious practices, and transcend established boundaries of contention. We aim to identify new analytical levers for revealing the neglected dimensions of the city’s contentious politics and for identifying the interplay between their changes and continuities. Our aim is to reveal the impetus and mechanisms for social-political changes in an open society dictated by increasingly authoritarian protocols, and to offer new conceptual and methodological directions that might yield a more profound and nuanced understanding of contentious politics both in and beyond Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-25
JournalHong Kong Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


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