Panel: Social Media and Protests in Hong Kong

Panellist: Shen Fei Chris, Lin Wan-Ying, Lee Francis, Cheung Chor-Yung; Moderated by Marko Skoric

Notes: … In Hong Kong, the economic development has always been a key aspect of society. However, parts of the younger generation don’t follow this principle anymore and they seek to improve the quality of life on local level with collaborations with civil society agencies. Social aspects of society become gradually more relevant. The Umbrella Movement (the protests movement) is about democracy and also about economics, as there is no social mobility among the classes.

Facebook helps to mobilize a critical mass. Opposition parties in Hong Kong are mid-aged people and they are not good in using social media. The Umbrella Movement was supported in many different ways by the society, ranging from marching in the streets via bringing food to the protesters to discussing in one’s neighbourhood.

CeDEM Asia 2014 Protests Panel

Whatsapp was the most frequently used online tool and also the Golden Forum (discussion forum) was very important for information and opinion exchange. This was presented in a study that looked at how important what kind of media was for oneself in the context of the Umbrella Movement. In Hong Kong, Facebook is very popular and it was consequently also often used in the protests. Social media were mainly used for coordination among the protesters at the frontline of the activism. Conventional mass media were very important for the outreach to the mass and were also very relevant to reach to other person groups. While at the beginning mass media were important to get the movement started, later on social media became more important.

A presented survey focused on finding out how people become willing to speak up in public to express their opinions. One’s perception of public opinion influences our willingness to speak up in public. “Due to fear of isolation, people constantly monitor media to estimate the current and future trends of public opinion. Those who perceive to be in a minority position, or in a majority position that is losing ground, will keep silent. The process goes on until the silent majority becomes a true minority. … New media appear to challenge the traditional spiral of silence theory. The differences between online and offline opinion expressions are noticeable.”

A recent survey shows preliminary results about the students that participated in the protests. The survey asked about the student perspectives. Concerning the survey participants 60 % are male and 71 % live in Hong Kong, most of them don’t live on campus. The results show, that online forums were the most relevant source of information, followed by Facebook. Other media were also relevant, but twitter was the least used source. 63 % of male students and 53 % of female students participated in the protests. While in the mid-upper and upper class only 40 % participated, participation in lower or grassroots and mid-lower class was above 60 %. ¾ of the active students described themselves as purely Hongkongese.

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