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Notes on the HK protests – What’s different from 2014

June 13, 2019

Vastly different. History never repeats because history happens. Occupy 3.0 can’t be the same as Occupy 2.0, because Occupy 2.0 happened.

The big differences….

People are simply not as angry or upset as they were in 2014. The economy is picking up. Rents aren’t totally crazy. It’s not great, but you don’t have the level of frustration that you had in 2014.

The Chief Executive is not that unpopular. One problem that the previous CE had was that the pro-establishment people never liked or trusted him, and when the pan-democrats turned against him, he had no one. The current CE has the very strong backing of the pro-establishment camp.

You have large segments of the Hong Kong population that were fed up with Occupy 2.0 and can be expected to be against Occupy 3.0. The particularly segment are working class blue-collar people, bus drivers, construction workers, taxi drivers, policemen. These people are people that would vote for Trump if they were in the US. The thing about this group of people is that they are doing economically quite well. During Occupy, this group of people were not mobilized until late in the day, whereas they provide “silent majority” support for the government.

The students are leaderless. Occupy 2.0 were lead by two student groups. Scholasticism under Joshua Wong and the HK Federation of Students. Neither group exists now, because after Occupy, they had vicious internal fights that lead to them collapsing. Also the extradition bill is not something that arouses a huge amount of passion on students. It’s a “please sign this petition to save the whales” as supposed to “I will stand in front of the tank.”

The people that tried to organize this set of protests are the pan-democrats. These are middle aged sensible people with kids, jobs and mortgages. The trouble with having middle aged sensible people leading a demonstration is that they very quickly lose control to “angry youth” that start throwing bottles and trying to storm Legco. A lot of motivation for “angry youth” is rebellion, but they aren’t going to take orders from the sensible pan-democrats any more than from Carrie Lam.

The police have a lot better tactics. The big one is that the police have discovered that smart phones exist. In 2014, the demonstrators were able to coordinate using smart phones and chat groups, and the police had no idea that they were there. This time the police were monitoring the chat groups. Encryption and secret chats don’t work, because the purpose of the group is to broadcast a message getting thousands of people to come to location X, and if you limit the people that read, you defeat the purpose. Also, in 2014, the police had static formations (and I suspect that this comes from the 1967 riots). This time they used the static locations as base areas, but they were willing to move forward. Also, you had tons of reporters following the police, which helps with the media war, and some of those reporters were very pro-police. In the meeting of a police action, it’s easy to get really graphic pictures, but if you have sympathetic reporters also taking pictures, you get them from a different angle.

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