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Why Hong Kong People Rebel: The Role of Economic Frustration, Political Discontent and National Identity in Non-Institutional Political Participation

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There are ongoing debates regarding the causes of social movements in recent decades in Hong Kong. Whether economic frustration or political discontent promotes Hong Kong residents’ non-institutional political participation (NiPP) remains an unanswered but important question. This study is an investigation of how perceived relative deprivation, democratic values, and attitudes toward Mainland China may influence Hong Kong residents’ participation in collective action. The analysis of a random sampling survey in 2017 (N = 919) showed that 35.4% of the respondents had participated in protests, strikes, or online collective actions. Young, single and male respondents, and those with higher education levels and incomes were more likely to engage in NiPP. Our results reveal a mixed impact of relative deprivation on NiPP: while perceived unfairness contributed to NiPP, perceived social status was positively associated with NiPP. In contrast, perceived mobility had no significant effect on NiPP. Moreover, respondents scoring higher in democratic values were more likely to participate in non-institutional political movements. However, the attitude toward Mainland China, serving as a system-justification mechanism, affected the possibility of collective actions and moderated the effect of democratic values. These empirical findings offer nuance to understandings of the social and political turbulence in Hong Kong.

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Correspondence to Fen Lin.

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Chen, X., Wu, A.M. & Lin, F. Why Hong Kong People Rebel: The Role of Economic Frustration, Political Discontent and National Identity in Non-Institutional Political Participation. Soc Indic Res 168, 79–98 (2023).

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