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  • The Occupy Movement in Hong Kong: Sustaining Decentralized Protest by Yongshun Cai
  • Shen Yang
The Occupy Movement in Hong Kong: Sustaining Decentralized Protest, by Yongshun Cai. London: Routledge, 2017. 174 pp. US $145.00 (Hardcover). ISBN: 9781138692299.

The Occupy Movement in 2014 was certainly one of the most important events that took place in Hong Kong after the handover. The movement was highly complicated, given its long time span, massive mobilization, and severe contention among the main stakeholders. It is not an easy task to get a clear picture on this controversial issue. Yongshun Cai's book offers a timely and rigorous analysis on this movement. The book starts with presenting the puzzle of why and how the protesters sustained a seemingly fruitless movement for as long as 79 days while many participants acknowledged that the chances of the central government making concessions were slim (p. 2). With this puzzle guiding the research, the author cohesively argues that government tolerance and the decentralized movement structure made it possible for the sustained movement. The author uses interviews and diverse secondary resources to support his argument.

The book consists of seven chapters. After giving an overview of the main arguments in the first chapter, the second chapter introduces the background of the movement. The author looks into the claims of the protesters. He notes that there is a significant gap between government officials' explanation of the protesters' demands and participants' own accounts. While the government tended to attribute the protesters' grievance to the lack of social mobility and affordable housing, both his interviews and secondary survey data show the demand for real suffrage was the primary drive for protesters to join the movement. The author also acknowledges that protesters' claims are interconnected and offers an insightful observation from his interview that "the true suffrage" was indeed an "umbrella" that covers various claims of the participants, ranging from political demands to economic grievance (p. 19).

Chapter 3 discusses the movement's legitimacy and the government's response to the movement. The author argues that the initial repression of the movement backfired, which indeed boosted support for the movement. As neither further repression nor excessive concession was acceptable, the government turned to the strategy of tolerance. The long occupation led to the rise of opposition among citizens that in turn undermined the movement's legitimacy (pp. 58–63). The government benefited from the war of attribution through the countermovement from anti-Occupy people. [End Page 180]

In Chapter 4 the author argues that the determined protesters with a high exit threshold made the sustenance of a movement possible. The author argues that faith in democracy, commitments to students, and expectation pressure made some protesters more determined than others (p.75). The determined protesters got help from the committed citizen supporters and the effective supply system (pp. 79–85). The author notes that the belief of some determined protesters could be likened to that of those in the Iranian Revolution in 1979, in which people saw the door was closed but felt that the opposition was powerful enough to open it (p. 91).

Chapter 5 argues that weak leadership contributed to the long standoff between the government and the protesters. By comparing the emergence of movement leaders and decision-making process with the 2010–2011 Chilean student movement and the 1989 Tiananmen Movement, the author argues the Occupy Movement was characterized by a leadership group with limited authority and coordination power, as the leadership of the Occupy Movement was not elected but came from preexisting organizations (pp. 104–105), and the coordination was ineffective with the consensus decision-making rule (p. 109). The leadership's authority was further undermined by the challenge from radical protesters (pp. 109–111). The leadership was not able to reach consensus on the decision regarding retreat or the strategies on the movement's direction.

Chapter 6 discusses the tactical escalation and its limitation. The student leaders initially did not have the ability to dialogue with the government. The escalation at the later stage of the movement turned out to be ineffective for the declined momentum. The author notes that there was a division between moderate and radical...


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