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Resistance Isn’t Futile: A Case Study of the Hong Kong Extradition Bill Protests

In 2019, the government of Hong Kong introduced an extradition bill that sparked the largest protests in its history. Since the bill’s withdrawal, activists expanded their demands to include universal suffrage, democracy, and an investigation into police brutality. This research seeks to answer the questions: Why were protests successful in achieving the withdrawal of the bill? And, why did the protests continue after the initial demand was fulfilled? By analyzing news coverage, I find that the protests achieved their original success because of the diversity of participants and universal fear of Beijing encroachment on Hong Kongers’ freedoms. The violent repression enabled protesters to emphasize anti-government aims, a revanchism accounting for the longevity of the movement. This research builds on a rich tradition of scholarship on social movements and finds that the Hong Kong protesters capitalized on an opportunity presented by the extradition bill, revitalizing an existing pro-democracy movement.

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