The Umbrella Movement and Hong Kong's Protracted Democratization Process

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)22_Publication in policy or professional journal

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-50
Journal / PublicationAsian Affairs
Issue number1
Online published19 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


The Umbrella Movement is the culmination of Hong Kong's protracted democratization process. This paper uses a historical perspective to explain the present situation. Students, which had been at the forefront of political activism in the 1970s, have yet again taken a leading role in the current movement. This has occurred as the democracy movement, which was buoyed by modest democratic reforms since the 1980s, has become deeply divided in recent years. Political parties of the pan-democratic camp, which played an important role in the 1990s, have been eclipsed by more assertive protest movements. The very slow progress of democratic reforms in Hong Kong is, however, due to the ruling elite. On the one hand, there is the authoritarian government in China which is worried about greater autonomy in its Special Administrative Region as well as potential spillover effects that could threaten one-party rule. At the same time, the powerful business elite in Hong Kong, Beijing's key ally, is worried that greater representative politics could lead to more substantial social redistribution.