Legitimacy and Forced Democratization in Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement

Image by Erin Song on Unsplash

The Umbrella Movement was one of the largest social movements in Hong Kong’s recent history. For 79 days in 2014, protesters occupied three sites (Admiralty, Causeway Bay, and Mongkok) to fight for democracy and universal suffrage. The Umbrella Movement was a somewhat unplanned occupation movement. At first, the occupation was expected to last for a few days in Central (following the plan of a staged movement called “Occupy Central”‘. However, there was an abrupt transformation from the Occupy Central movement to the Umbrella Movement after the police fired tear gas at the protesters. Against this backdrop, this project examined how such a transformation challenged the legitimacy of the social movement leaders and their decision-making processes. Drawing on in-depth interviews with the leaders of the Umbrella Movement, Chi Kwok and I argued that bottom-up legitimacy crises could significantly affect the leaders’ decision-making processes and effectiveness.

Collaborator: Chi Kwok


  • Kwok, C., & Chan, N. K. (2017). Legitimacy and forced democratization in social movements: A case study of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. China Perspectives.2017/ 3, 7-16.

  • Kwok, C., & Chan, N. K. (2016, April 5). The problem of legitimacy in the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement. Discover Society.31. Available here

Research from this project was also presented at the 2016 IPSA World Congress of Political Science.

Ngai Keung Chan
Ph.D. Candidate in Communication

I’m a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication at Cornell University. Currently, I study how algorithms and performance metrics transform and shape labor control and resistance in the digitally-enabled gig economy.