The Umbrella Movement is about economic grievances rather than democracy?

[updated on Oct. 5, 2015]

Many observers suggest that protestors are really grumpy about inequality, job prospects, housing prices etc. rather than democracy. They are mistaken to take material and political grievances as discrete issues. What matters is the mechanism of attribution. When people blame their blight on the political system, the two sets of grievances are inextricably interlinked. —-

“People are attributing their economic grievances to the political system,” Hui said. “Demand for universal suffrage is connected to these material grievances.” Young people are motivated by universal values rather than material concerns: 「上位論」不足以解釋青年問題 If the CY government has a misdiagnosis, it will also have the wrong cure:

Hong Kong’s budget to see HK$20b in sweeteners for the public 

The wrong remedy: Build hostels for young while they save for costly housing deposits: think tank 

A year after Occupy, Hong Kong government struggles to respond

So far, the government’s policy solution is to fund programmes to teach them how to become entrepreneurs. Such a strange response can only be understood in the context that fundamental economic reforms in Hong Kong’s property market and other cartelised industries are too difficult to champion against entrenched business interests.  Occupy students in their 20s could easily become radical adult protesters in their 30s. And a new crop of student agitators could emerge each year. Perhaps the government is right – that salvation resides in a reasonably priced flat. But if they are wrong, then no amount of cheap flats can quench the desire for a democratically elected government and social justice.

[May 20] Getting “Useless home-buying tips from son of property tycoon Joseph Lau” doesn’t help

[July 8] Hong Kong challenge: Can you live on HK$12,000 a month?

government statistics in 2013 revealed that the median monthly salary for workers aged between 15 and 24 — of which 40 percent are tertiary degree holders — was at a disgraceful level of HK$8,000. A 2014 survey by human resources firm CTgoodjobs showed that the median starting salary for fresh graduates was between HK$11,000 and HK$13,750.

[July 29] University graduates earning less now than 20 years ago;  Salaries of Hong Kong’s university graduates dropped 20 per cent in last 20 years, study finds

They received a median salary of HK$10,860 (US$1,400) in 2013, the latest year for which data is available, down HK$2,300 from 1993. Meanwhile, inflation has soared 51.4 percent during the past 20 years.

[July 13, 2015] Quality of Life of Youth in Hong Kong Slightly Declines in 2014/15 

[Oct. 14, 2014] Jack Ma’s HK$1 billion startup fund for HK youths yet to appear

One placard at Occupy Admiralty says “No Livelihood Without Democracy” IMG_0152

Prominent slogans and placards: “The backstory to seven of the most popular protest slogans in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement” Social problems unlikely to be resolved without true democracy

Hong Kong’s current social conflict has its roots in the hegemony of big real estate developers… But the social problems in the territory haven’t seen any improvement at all, and brutal suppression alone can never truly resolve the differences in our society. It seems it is only a matter of time before the next, even bigger resistance movement breaks out. A democratic political system is widely regarded as the superstructure of a capitalist society… Unfortunately, the entire economy of Hong Kong is controlled by big real estate developers and business conglomerates, and our legislature is also dominated by pro-establishment factions and functional constituencies, while the pan-democrats are totally excluded from the decision-making process and can only act as the opposition, thereby leading to the current political deadlock. Therefore, in order to resolve our social conflict in a non-violent way and redistribute our social resources more fairly, the government must return power to the people, and facilitate an election system that can truly represent and uphold the interests of the general public.


See a left-wing view On the significance of the umbrella movement

See Eric Li’s argument that this movement is not about democracy and Democracy-loving media’s misleading coverage of Hong Kong protest 

One rebuttal:


Additional stories

‘Poor’ results in government poverty report? 

White elephant projects without democracy: Money pits: 8 Hong Kong government ‘white elephant’ projects



[July 12-] Made-in-China water pipes contain high levels of lead; the contractor  China State Construction has strong ties to the chief executive and pro-regime legislators.

Who says that livelihood issues are unrelated to democracy? 689句式下看到的政治現實沒有民主,哪有民生


Cartoon: poor governance => degradation of material welfare:


Explainer: How the water lead contamination scare became a citywide concernHow the government lost public trust over lead contamination 50,000 public housing residents may be drinking unsafe water  ; 梁振英民建聯成輸家 民主黨本土派有利 食水含鉛超標 水務署點名水喉匠林德深避提中國建築 ; 【 香港鉛爆?】房署准用國產貨被指罪魁 網民稱國產「假銅」水管整條含鉛 政府謊稱接駁位出事圖掩飾 問題遍全港 ; 中國建築母公司 曾涉賄賂被世銀列黑名單 蔣麗芸積極反拉布 丈夫任董事中國建築 逾百億工程合約受拉布影響一鉛領導多鉛社會 鉛鉛不絕香港玩鉛鉛水 一杯鉛水 澆醒港豬Water samples to be taken from 10 Hong Kong public housing estates in bid to allay residents’ fears over lead Contractor must bear responsibility for tainted waterHong Kong lawmaker denies conflict in lead drinking water scare

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One response to “The Umbrella Movement is about economic grievances rather than democracy?

  1. Pingback: Why are Hong Kong’s young people protesting? Fighting for their future | Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement and Beyond

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