Rebel with a cause: Structural problems underlying the Umbrella Movement of Hong Kong and the role of the youth

W. Wong, M. Chu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this paper is to examine the cause and nature of the 2014 Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong and the role of the youth in the movement.

This paper analyzes the relationship between the serious social and economic problems in Hong Kong, of which the youth often feel the greatest impact, and the demands for a real democratic system made by the Umbrella Movement. It examines the structural roots of the Movement and the role of youths in it.

The Umbrella Movement is not simply a movement of anger and frustration, but also a movement reflecting some of the serious and legitimate concerns of the people of Hong Kong, especially the youth, who have a high and growing sense of local identity and citizenship. The movement links the major policy and social problems of the post-Handover era to its root cause, which is an undemocratic political system combined with crony capitalism. Unfortunately, the approach taken by the government toward the Movement has been to emphasize its illegal nature and to attempt to divide the opposition by adopting “united front” strategies that pay no serious attention to the problems the Movement has raised. Eventually, this approach will only lead to an outcome of “strong government, weak society” where strong government action in opposition to reformers will weaken the cohesion of society and expose the actual weakness of the state that has no popular legitimacy, going on to create more chaos as a result of its weak governance.

This paper will help both scholars and policymakers to understand the structural and root causes of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong and explain why Hong Kong is suffering from a serious problem of weak governance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAsian Education and Development Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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