Comparative Politics

Total Mobilisation from Below: Abeyance Networks, Threats and Emotions in Hong Kong’s Freedom Summer

Edmund Cheng Author ORCID home | opens in new tab City University of Hong Kong
Samson Yuen Hong Kong Baptist University


This paper examines the origins and dynamics of an extraordinary wave of protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020. Despite lacking visible political opportunities and organisational resources, the movement drew prolonged, mass participation unparalleled in the city’s history and much of the world. Drawing on onsite and online data, we conceptualise Hong Kong’s Freedom Summer as a form of total mobilisation from below. The totality of mobilisation depended on a set of permissive and productive conditions: abeyant civil society networks concealed after the Umbrella Movement activated by fear over extradition to an authoritarian regime and anger towards unregulated police action. The movement’s characteristics are further examined in regard to protest scale, mobilisation structure, alternative space, and group solidarity. The spasmodic moments of mobilisation are thus explained by the nexus of network building in an unreceptive political environment and participatory experience in conjunctural events.


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