Hong Kong protests: who, what and what next in 4 charts
Aug 13, 2019
Photo: SCMP/Sam Tsang
Alan Wong

A wave of protests rocking Hong Kong has been fueled by mostly young, educated and middle-class people who are unlikely to stop demonstrating anytime soon, according to a study.

Illustration: Inkstone/Tom Leung

The former British colony is in the midst of its worst political crisis since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997 as a largely autonomous region.

Since June, demonstrations stemming from an unpopular bill have escalated into an increasingly violent movement demanding greater democracy and police accountability, among other things.

The surveys, conducted at 12 demonstrations between June 9 and August 4, were led by a team of researchers from four Hong Kong universities.

The demonstrators surveyed were mostly in their early 20s and considered themselves middle-class.

The charts in this story come from responses collected from the most recent protests where the relevant data is available. (Read the original findings and data here.)

Illustration: Inkstone/Tom Leung

What’s driving people onto the streets? Protesters were motivated by their anger at police conduct during previous protests and the desire to fight for greater democracy, which are among the five grievances (above) that were formulated in June. 

Hong Kong police have turned to increasingly forceful actions to arrest and disperse the demonstrators. Peaceful rallies have routinely ended with violent clashes.

Anti-government protesters gather in Kennedy Town on Hong Kong island on Aug 4, 2019. Photo: SCMP/Sam Tsang

Increasingly tough police action could continue, if not escalate, after Beijing on Aug 12 urged the city to curb violence, citing, for the first time, “signs of terrorism” in the protests.

Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has rejected calls for an independent body to investigate alleged police brutality and a formal withdrawal of the bill from the city’s legislative agenda.

This means the protesters and the government are stuck in political gridlock, with no clear resolution in sight.

Illustration: Inkstone/Tom Leung

In a survey conducted on Aug 4, more than 50% of protesters said their next step would be to escalate their actions. 

Incensed by the police actions on Aug 11, thousands of protesters occupied Hong Kong International Airport, disrupting hundreds of flights on Monday and Tuesday.

Illustration: Inkstone/Tom Leung

In demonstrations between mid-June and mid-July, the researchers asked when they first joined any demonstration. 16% of the respondents said they were first-timers.

About one-third of them said their first rally was the annual vigil in Hong Kong commemorating those killed in the Tiananmen Square crackdown 30 years ago, in which hundreds, perhaps more than a thousand, of people died. 

Alan is the editor of Inkstone. He was a digital editor for The New York Times in Hong Kong.