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Webinar: Protest Solidarity and Radicalization: Hong Kong as Northern Ireland Redux?

We are pleased to invite you to a webinar Protest Solidarity and Radicalization: Hong Kong as Northern Ireland Redux? co-organised by the Centre for the Study of Ethnic Conflict, Queen’s University Belfast; PSA Ethnopolitics Specialist Group and Comparative Governance and Policy Research Centre Hong Kong Baptist University on Thursday, May27 at 10:00 BST

Protest Solidarity and Radicalization: Hong Kong as Northern Ireland Redux?

Before 2014, few would have thought of comparing Hong Kong and Northern Ireland. Except for the British connection, little was apparently shared by the secular financial centre in the Far East famous for its ultra-free-market dogma, and the devolved region in the United Kingdom known for its tragic sectarianism dividing the Catholic and Protestant communities since the Reformation. Then came the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in late 2014, through which Hongkongers said no with their brand of “street politics” (Cheng 2016) to Beijing’s rendition of “universal suffrage”. The subsequent, sporadic violent encounters between various groups in the city were only a foretaste of what was to come: the all-out protesters-vs-police clashes in the entire city in 2019 that followed the familiar path of peaceful protests met with suppression and then spiraling violence. More than anything else, the Anti-Extradition Bill Protests brought home the awareness of a new “politics of enmity” (Bew 2007) in the Chinese Special Administrative Region, reminiscent of the beginning of the “Troubles” (1968-1998) in Northern Ireland. This seminar aims to probe the utility and limits of this intuitive comparison in order to arrive at a workable comparative framework for Northern Ireland and Hong Kong specialists.


The rise of leaderless protest movements around the world since then has also shown the potentials and realities of cross-regional political learning. Without a centralized leadership structure, these protests often face two major problems: maintaining solidarity and constraining radicalization. In this seminar, we present preliminary findings from two survey experiments used to study protest participants of Hong Kong’s 2019 protests. The first experiment is a list experiment that aims to gauge the extent of willingness to use violent tactics or provide assistance to the radical flank of the protest, which show that protest violence was sustained by a large number of tactically-moderate protesters. The second is a factorial experiment that seeks to understand the impact of different types of protest violence on intra-movement solidarity. The results show that protesters demonstrated “tolerant solidarity” by restraining themselves from publicly denouncing protest violence despite their privately negative evaluation. The overall findings enrich our understanding of contemporary protests and show that survey experiments can be a useful tool for studying protests. 


Samson Yuen is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Government and International Studies of Hong Kong Baptist University. He studies contentious politics, civil society and state power. His works have been published in journals including Political Studies, Mobilization, Social Movement Studies, Geopolitics, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Journal of Contemporary China, Modern China, China Information, China Review and China Perspectives

  1. K. Martin Chung is an Assistant Professor in the Department of GIS, HKBU and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Ethnic Conflict, Queen’s University Belfast. He is the principal investigator of the project “The Politics of Antagonism Revisited: Assessing Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement (1998-2018)” funded by the Research Grants Council, Hong Kong (#22612318). His works on political reconciliation in Europe and East Asia have been published by Cornell UP, Oxford UP, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, among others.

Discussant: Dr Jim Donaghey (Ulster University) is an early career academic with a growing reputation in the academic community for high quality research. Jim has extensive experience of carrying out research into the intersections of music and politics, with an emphasis on participatory action research and creative methodologies. He is recognised as an expert in punk and radical politics and has used this as a springboard to explore issues of cultural repression, post-conflict legacies, contested spaces, and transnational movement organising. Jim is on the board of Punk & Post-Punk journal, is a member of the executive editorial board of Anarchist Studies journal, and web editor of AnarchistStudies.Blog.