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Explained: Who are protesting in Hong Kong? The young, highly educated middle class

They are young, generally in their twenties, concludes a study that has sought to profile the participants of 12 protests between June 9 and August 12.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: August 15, 2019 10:25:41 am
Hong kong protest, hong kong democracy protests, hong kong government, china-hong kong, hong kong political crisis, hong kong airport, hong kong tension A participant at a protest held in Hong Kong on August 8. The survey covered 12 such protests since June 9. (AP Photo)

SINCE JUNE, Hong Kong has witnessed an unprecedented series of protests in opposition to a Bill that allows extradition to mainland China. What is the profile of these protesters?

They are young, generally in their twenties, concludes a study that has sought to profile the participants of 12 protests between June 9 and August 12. Most of them have had a higher education, and those who identify themselves as “middle class” outnumber those who call themselves “lower class”.

Read | China says Hong Kong protests ‘near terrorism’ as airport reopens

The study, which is available online, was led by researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Lingnan University, the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University. The 12 surveys covered 6,688 respondents; the percentage of male respondents (50.5 to 64.2 per cent) was generally higher than that of female ones, except on June 26 (42.6 per cent male respondents).

Hong kong protest, hong kong democracy protests, hong kong government, china-hong kong, hong kong political crisis, hong kong airport, hong kong tension Police clash with anti-government protesters at the airport in Hong Kong, China, August 13, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Age: majority in 20s

In general, the majority of respondents belonged to the age group 20-29. The proportion aged 20-24 ranged from 16.3 per cent to 54.2 per cent, and the proportion aged 25-29 ranged from 11.6 to 34.2 per cent across the surveys. There were also younger respondents aged 19 or below, ranging between 6.0 and 15.6 per cent.

Source: ‘Onsite Survey Findings in Hong Kong’s Anti-Extradition Bill Protests’, Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey, Chinese University of Hong Kong

The paper divides the protests into mass rallies, fluid demonstrations and static demonstrations, and looks at the age profile of participants in each. In mass rallies, protesters were more evenly distributed across age groups — these often featured higher participation rates of those aged 30 or above (between 43.1 and 57.3 per cent). However, in fluid demonstrations, which often involved more confrontations, the proportion of protesters aged 30 or above significantly dropped (between 13.8 and 30.4 per cent). “That is to say, fluid demonstrations were mostly dominated by young people under the age of 30,” the paper said. In static demonstrations, around 23 to 43 per cent of participants were 30 or above.

Hong kong protest, hong kong democracy protests, hong kong government, china-hong kong, hong kong political crisis, hong kong airport, hong kong tension Travellers look at placards and posters placed by protesters at the airport in Hong Kong, (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Education: generally high

While the education level of survey respondents was generally high, there were some variations among the types of protests. Participants of mass rallies were relatively less highly educated, but even in these protests, 68.2 to 76.8 per cent had completed tertiary education. For static demonstrations and fluid demonstrations, however, participants on average were more highly educated. More than 80 per cent of them reported to have received tertiary education.

Socio-economic status

Mindful of the likelihood that respondents would be reluctant to reveal information about their income, the research team asked them to self-report their family’s socio-economic status. The options to choose from were upper-class, middle-class and lower-class.

Hong kong protest, hong kong democracy protests, hong kong government, china-hong kong, hong kong political crisis, hong kong airport, hong kong tension Travellers wait to check-in for their flights at the airport in Hong Kong. (AP/PTI)

More respondents identified themselves as belonging to the middle class than as belonging to the lower class. But in some specific protests, especially those with a more confrontational atmosphere, the ratio of middle-class participants to lower class participants was close to 1:1.

Overall, a minimal number of respondents (less than 2 per cent) identified themselves as upper class. In the mass rallies, 46.9 to 54.0 per cent of the respondents identified themselves as middle class while 28.1 to 45.0 per cent identified themselves as lower class. In static demonstrations and fluid demonstrations, middle class and lower class participants were more or less equally represented.

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