An Anatomy of Public Sentiment and Perception towards the Legal System after Hong Kong’s Social Upheaval: A Digital Analysis

Project: Research

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This study examines public sentiment and perception towards the legal system in Hong Kong subsequent to the 2019 Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill protest. Following a crackdown (including mass arrests, prosecutions, and sentencing) on those who participated in the civil unrest which occurred in late 2019, and the subsequent enactment of The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, police enforcement actions,  prosecutorial decisions, court convictions and sentencing rationales became a major source of contention in Hong Kong’s politics. The increase in scepticism and hostility towards the legal system and legal authorities has, on occasion, transformed into radical action – sometimes involving the use and threat of violence – targeted at both law enforcement officers and judges. Examining the source of public resentment towards the legal system and its potential consequences is therefore crucial.Building on studies that confirm the constitutive role social media plays in shaping public opinions and alternate realities, this study is the first to examine, through digital content analysis, perceptions and sentiments towards the legal system in a deeply polarised Hong Kong. It studies how these opinions and emotions are formed over time, their antecedents and intensity, the factors and significant events that triggered them, how they are narrated and expressed in the digital domain and how they may affect behavioural tendencies. It draws upon a set of established frameworks in criminology concerning procedural justice, legitimacy and legal cynicism as an analytical lens to offer explanations for Hong Kong’s rapid decline from a law-abiding society, where the public cherishes the rule of law and respects the legal system, to a society where legal authorities are sometimes viewed with contempt.This study will provide empirical evidence to better our understanding of the current state of Hong Kong’s legal system, generate novel insights on the impact of social media on legal socialisation and enrich the theoretical and methodological frameworks of the process-based model in criminology and socio-legal studies.


Project number9043457
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/07/22 → …