Targeted boycott and noncooperation — “If we withdraw now, we would lose everything that we have been fighting for”?

[updated on Feb. 8, 2016]


After occupy:

What could protestors have done to put pressure on the government? What could pro-democracy folks do now to sustain the movement without violating the law?

The main non-cooperation act in the society is the call to pay taxes by stacks of checks each amounting to $68.90 or $689, or $6890 etc. This act has symbolic value but doesn’t really achieve anything. See 良心抗稅運動. See blog posts on targeted boycott.

[Feb 2, 2016] Passion Times advocates boycott of a Chinese New Year film made by a producer who has long ridiculed the pro-democracy camp: 賭城風雲3》周五門票開售 旺角百老匯7:45場暫賣出6張飛 ; a dedicated Facebook page 香港人有骨氣 杯葛王晶罷看王晶攻略;  Why is there a boycott drive against Wong Jing’s latest movie? However, apparently many HK people rushed to watch the movie: 王晶微博報喜稱票房已破億. Hmmm, if HK people can’t boycott a terrible movie, what is the chance of a city-wide targeted boycott?

[Sep 28, 2015] Anti-umbrella camp dropped the plan to sue occupiers for damage for fear that participating businesses would be targeted for boycott:

今日佔中一周年,保衞香港運動及部分的士業人士上街再反佔中時,身兼中華廠商聯合會永遠名譽會長的「保普選」反佔中大聯盟發言人施榮懷,卻在今日南華早報刊出的專訪中稱,早前原本想向佔中發起人提出民事索償的餐廳等小商戶,都紛紛打退堂鼓,因為他們當初提出此舉後,即遭標籤為「藍絲」,以至反過來失去更多生意。(反佔中「福建幫」發言人變相承認 「藍絲」非民心所向│丘偉華)

Would the “China Ready” campaign make targeted boycott easier? CHINA READY認證出爐 迎合中國旅客喜好

A call to boycott pro-Beijing bookstore chains and to shop at small bookshops because  the former are promoting a series of anti-umbrella books and have returned pro-umbrella books to the publisher.

Hong Kong book giant in censorship row after returning titles to ‘pro-democracy’ publisher ; 推介10間獨立書店 抗衡「三中商」霸權 ; 香港獨立書店 每周推薦一書 ;【香港獨立書店地圖】and map

Small bookstores are closing one after another 不敵加租 精神書局西環店下月結業

Basic Law violation seen as LOCPG tightens grip on HK publishers:

The Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government (LOCPG), the de facto government in Hong Kong, … has taken control of Sino United Publishing Limited, the dominant player in the local publishing market, through a shell company based in Hong Kong, the magazine said, quoting documents from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. Sino United Publishing has businesses ranging from publishing to distribution and retailing. The publisher wholly owns three local major bookstores — Joint Publishing HK, Chung Hwa Book Co. and the Commercial Press.


Stacks of pro-umbrella books at one of the small upstairs independent bookstores in Causeway Bay:


Stacks of anti-umbrella books at one of the main bookstore chains in Wanchai:


Chinese University students read umbrella books outside the Commercial Press 中大生商務印外 快閃讀傘運「禁書」

[Mar. 29] Call to boycott a pro-establishment newspaper Sing Tao Daily 身體力行杯葛星島集團的刊物

[Apr. 3] A suggestion to boycott the repayment of student loans  學聯有沒有想過罷債?

[Oct 8, 2015] But support Kwok Shiu-ming”s businesses 莎莎 : I would hire HKU Student Union President Billy Fung, business tycoon says

[May 18] A FB page dedicated to promote shopping with mom-and-pop shops instead of large chains 撐小店大聯盟



[July 10] Call for a consumer boycott 公民的消費制裁

[July] boycott of taxi drivers who staged a counter protest against the occupy movement on Oct. 13:


[July 29] Hong Kong’s taxi voting block shows how electoral process is open to corruption and [Aug 14]  Hongkongers rally to Uber’s cause as nearly 50,000 sign petition in favour of continued service after arrests

[July 12-] The pro-establishment camp is suddenly faced with another crisis: Made-in-China water pipes contain high levels of lead and a pro-govt legislator is related to the contractor company China State Construction. There should be a growing market for local businesses using supplies that comply with int’l standards.

 50,000 public housing residents may be drinking unsafe water  ; 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Hong Kong lawmaker denies conflict in lead drinking water scare


See also “Shopping revolution

[Sep 29, 2015] Joshua Wong explained that they couldn’t withdraw because 40% of the occupiers would not leave.

黃之鋒接受《星島》訪問時表示,自己沒有一刻想過主動退場,「不主動退場的原因不是學生要面、賴死唔走。原因是如果我們叫退場,退盡都是退六成,其餘的四成人點算?這種金盤洗手式的主動切割係唔work(可行),因為切割後,其他人都係會話,你看看你們一宣布主動退場,剩下的四成市民就被打至頭破血流,你們為何不跟他們並肩作戰?」… 他透露,泛民一直希望退場,「他們抒發完感受後,我都跟他們說,如果你叫得走九成的人,咪考慮是否主動退場。你叫不走九成的人,就面對現實吧!」【黃之鋒:不退場的原因】

When interviewed, many protestors express the same sentiment: “If we retreat now, we would lose everything that we have been fighting so hard for in the past 3 weeks.” (‘If We Lose This, We Lose Everything’ and Hong Kong protesters won’t “surrender,” reject leaders’ calls to leave) [Note that the term withdrawal is better, because it conveys the meaning of tactical withdrawal rather than retreating for nothing.]

Hong Kong people do not seem to be aware of a key lesson in nonviolent movements: that methods of dispersal such as targeted boycotts can be just as effective as methods of concentration. It is possible to keep up the momentum while everyone goes back to school or work.

This is particularly the case in a system where economic privileges are manipulated to maintain political stability.

Up to now, HK protestors have sought strength in numbers. (“I’m here as one more body,” said Leung. “Because for every one less body here, it gets more dangerous for everyone else.”) After the police arrested Scholarism students, protestors poured to the Central Government Offices to protect students. When thugs showed up to beat up and sexually harass student protestors in Mongkok, messages appeared on social media requesting reinforcements. Whenever the no. of protestors dwindle at different sites, whenever the police show movements, etc., protestors make appeals for help on social media.

Of course, Hong Kong protestors have deeply impressed the world that half a million people could peacefully demonstrate in the streets.

Unlike other nonviolent movements, HK people have enjoyed freedom even without democracy. As such, they have had little need to pursue methods of dispersal which are often adopted to avoid direct repression. As police brutality increases and freedom shrinks, it may become increasingly necessarily to come up with innovative tactics of dispersal.


Popular sentiments:

If We Lose This, We Lose Everything

“We can’t withdraw, because there is nowhere to withdraw to”




Calls for boycott and noncooperation:

Since this post was created, there have been more and more calls for methods of dispersal including targeted boycotts and different ways of paying or not paying taxes.

Not paying taxes would incur criminal charges. Occupy supporters are coming up with different ways to pay taxes while showing noncooperation. See:超合作運動/743009985735321?fref=nf

A group created chops to make it easier to write piles of checks at $68.90, $689 to pay taxes (CY Leung is nicknamed 689 because he was chosen by 689 votes in the Election Committee): and This act has symbolic value but doesn’t really achieve anything. See 良心抗稅運動.


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Lawyers: Is it time to refuse pro bono work 

[Mar. 2015] Call to shop at small bookshops and boycott pro-Beijing bookstore chains after Hong Kong book giant in censorship row after returning titles to ‘pro-democracy’ publisher :「自己的書自己找」,  三中商大批退回上書局出書 客源料轉向樓上書店,【香港獨立書店地圖】and map

Boycott of businesses owned by members of the election/nominating committee, esp. those belonging to the first sector chosen by corporate votes and the fourth sector composed of pro-establishment politicians : This list shows how a small group of tycoons extensively control the Hong Kong economy.

Special Report: The mainland’s colonization of the Hong Kong economy (Reuters):

When Xi Jinping wanted to deliver a political message to Hong Kong as protesters demanding free elections were threatening to take to the streets, he summoned the tycoons who dominate the city’s economy. The words from the Chinese leader at the September 22 meeting in Beijing were uncompromising but not surprising. He would not entertain any demand for full universal suffrage in Hong Kong, according to two people who attended…

summoning the city’s business leaders suggests Beijing may be more concerned than it is prepared to acknowledge. The city’s business leaders were also called to the capital in the aftermath of a 500,000-strong protest in 2003 when China attempted to introduce controversial new security laws. The proposed laws were withdrawn and the then chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, was eventually forced to resign.

[Oct 3, 2015] Tycoons not the boss anymore as Beijing calls the shots:

“Mainlanders now tend to see Li Ka-shing as a ‘profit comes first’ businessman, rather than ‘a role model who loves the country and Hong Kong’.” … Thanks to the two-week long media bashing of the “superman” on the mainland, every tycoon in town should by now know who the boss is and how to behave. Beijing is, however, not allowing them much time to turn “patriotic”. It is not taking any chances, grooming its own crop of patriotic tycoons in Hong Kong…  Since 2012,  newcomers from the north have grabbed land worth at least HK$33 billion, a near  fivefold jump in four years…

Hong Kong kingmakers? The 300 committee members with long history of voting for chief executives:  most of those election veterans are delegates to the National People’s Congress, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – loyalists appointed by Beijing – business tycoons and religious leaders.


Analysis of the ties between tycoons and pro-establishment groups in Wan Chai:  建制派的網絡與資源彷彿源源不盡,但細看之下原來是勾結壟斷之果

A call to boycott developers《就係唔幫襯地產商》

Also Brian Fong, The Partnership between the Chinese Government and Hong Kong’s Capitalist Class: Implications for HKSAR Governance, 1997–2012, The China Quarterly / Volume 217 / March 2014, pp 195 – 220; Stan Hok-wui Wong, Real Estate Elite, Economic Development, and Political Conflicts in Post-colonial Hong Kong

On the nominating/election committee: The power of fish: A peculiar distortion in Hong Kong’s political structure ;  《鏗鏘集》揭漁農界另類「種票」 25個團體九七前同期註冊;  譚耀宗:「普選」立法會不代表取消功能組別 Functional constituencies: Broadening the franchise is vital for accountability and governance ; Johannes Chan , wikipedia






The taxi association that sought court injunctions to clear the occupy sites is now rewarded with representation in the transportation functional constituency: 反佔領交通團體 料成功能組選民

Boycott of fundraising by pro-establishment groups: 建制團體賣旗出沒注意(5 – 8月)


A HK student who participated in a successful student movement in Quebec: 魁北克則是以經濟干預為目的,細規模佔領政府的「大水喉」商業機構 ( 從魁北克罷課反觀香港雨傘運動


施加經濟壓力… 公民不合作非暴力抗爭要取得成功,在集體犯法之餘,必須配合其他有實際作用的行動,對當局以至整個社會施加實質的經濟壓力,始有成功的希望。…甘地使出了「排斥英國貨」的策略,抵制英國產的商品。… 甘地和馬丁路德金所發起的公民不合作非暴力抗爭並不是純粹的集體犯法,而是針對有關不公義不平等政策與法律的實際行動,並且是成功對有關既得利益者施加實際的經濟壓力,有助迫使對方讓步。反觀香港的公民不合作非暴力抗爭,基本上就只有佔領街道一途,干犯的非法集會的法例,與爭取的真普選並不相關,而佔領數條街道,實際上亦未對既得利益者造成真正的巨大經濟損失,效果不彰,未能爭取到爭取的目標,乃是正常不過。







A restaurant 「喜記避風塘炒辣蟹」has been targeted for boycott after the owner was alleged to have indecently assaulted female student protestors during a counter-protest. The owner complains that he has lost HK$800,000 in revenues by Oct. 21:

Here is a related call to target cartels: How to Make Enemies and Alienate People 

At the same time, the pro-establishment blue ribbons created their own app to support pro-establishment businesses: 「藍色正義」app羅列反佔中商戶 喜記無份 and the list of blue businesses with a funny twist


See Has the Umbrella Movement hurt the HK economy?


Background info on targeted boycott:

Maria Stephan: How the Hong Kong Protesters Can Win


Students should consider alternative ways to pressure the government without inconveniencing regular Hong Kong people, said Victoria Hui, associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame and author of “War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe.” Protesters could organize targeted boycotts or convince people to withhold income tax payments, she said.  (Bloomberg)

Victoria Hui, associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, says that a hit on the industries dependent on tourism doesn’t have to be detrimental for the protest movement. “Many people are already incensed by the effect of mass tourism from the mainland,” she says. “Rents have shot up and many mom-and-pop stores are torn down for the benefit of malls catering to tourists.” ( Time)

Daily Observations:

October 2nd

Tensions in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution were diffused at the eleventh hour last night, but could rekindle any time unless protestors find a third alternative between escalating and retreating. Tensions were building up last evening as Hong Kong protestors surrounded the Chief Executive’s office and threatened to occupy other government office buildings if CY Leung would not step down by midnight. In response, the police were seen to stockpile tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and even bullets for AR-15 at the Chief Executive’s office. Observers could finally take a deep breath when CY Leung announced that he would appoint the Chief Secretary Carrie Lam to open negotiations with students. However, few people are optimistic that the negotiations would amount to anything. Not only that Mr. Leung refused to resign as demanded by protestors, Beijing has also stepped up its hardline position that it will not change the arrangements to vet candidates for the CE election in 2017 — which caused the protests in the first place. Protestors will thus continue to feel that they have to escalate to more disruptive actions or the movement would lose momentum and die out. But protestors have a third alternative. Scholars have argued that methods of dispersal — such as consumer boycotts and nonpayment of taxes — could be as effective as methods of concentration — such as the massive demonstrations that are on display now. If targeted boycotts hurt the interest of business tycoons whose support CY relies on and if nonpayment of taxes make bureaucrats unable to administer Hong Kong, then protestors would have a higher chance of compelling concessions and avoiding direct clashes with the police. And the movement will be sustainable in the long-term even when people have to go back to school or to work.

October 1st

International and local commentaries alike are wondering for how long the “umbrella revolution” could last. The CY Leung government learned the painful lesson last Sunday that repression would only backfire. They have pulled back the riot police and protests have surged since then. The government seems to belatedly follow the strategy of ignoring the protests, betting that protestors will eventually go home and the revolution will just fade away without any more clashes for the world to see. Hong Kong people are known for pragmatism as much as their call for democracy. When the rice bowl is at stake, HK people may well slowly retreat from the protest sites. What this strategy misses is that a people power movement could work equally well when it is dispersed as when it is concentrated. Hong Kong people could sustain the movement while still going to work and to school by adopting methods of dispersal. They could, for example, compile a list of business interests closely tied to CY’s inner circle and launch a targeted boycott. Protestors cannot force CY to step down, but may have a chance at forcing his inner circle to force him to step down.


Filed under Umbrella Movement

14 responses to “Targeted boycott and noncooperation — “If we withdraw now, we would lose everything that we have been fighting for”?

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