Event — IIAS Lunch Lecture

Looking back a decade before ‘Protestscapes’ in Hong Kong

Changes in info-sociational mobilization in HKSAR civic society (from 2009 to 2019)

Lunch Lecture by Dr David Sadoway from Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Department of Geography and The Environment in Surrey, BC, Canada.

This presentation looks back at interviews with established civic activists conducted nearly a decade ago in Hong Kong. That work helps to identify some of the changes in civil society (e)-mobilization - what Sadoway terms info-sociational transformations - that occurred in the decade since the current 'days of protest' in 2019.

By November 2019 the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) faced an unprecedented situation of being in a perpetual state of protest for nearly five months. While not unusual in other locations in Asia, Hong Kong’s civil society and democratic movements or political parties had been less inclined to employing prolonged mass protest tactics or public street demonstrations. In the transitional period from being a direct-rule British Colony to being a ‘Special Administration Region’ (in 1997), Hong Kong’s civil society remained highly active on a wide range of fronts. Their civic associational practices employed a wide variety of approaches such as short-term street protests; art activism; online activism; and teach-ins.

This presentation looks back at interviews with civic associational activists, organizations and established groups (primarily civic environmentalists) conducted nearly a decade ago in Hong Kong. That work helps to identify changes in civil society (e)-mobilization that occurred in the decade since the current ‘days of protest’ (June – Nov 2019). How civil associations networked, built counter-power coalitions and alliances; and also deployed information communications technologies (ICTs) in their activisms—was the primary focus of my research nearly a decade ago. Do these changing info-sociational practices remain relevant in today’s Hong Kong? 

Civic associations’ internal and external organizational approaches; their participatory approaches via public sphere transformations and cyberactivism; and their digital spatial praxis through local and global ICT-linked alliance-building — I argue, continue to provide important insights into the dynamic nature of Hong Kong political and associational life. My conclusions reflect on the current challenges facing Hong Kong activists and counter publics. These not only include problematic failures in local governance, but also in how Hong Kong governmentalities are shaped by ongoing entanglements and misunderstandings, including digital frictions, between ‘Pax Americana’ and ‘Pax Sinica.’

David Sadoway is trained as an urban planner and resource and environmental manager. He has a PhD from the Department of Urban Planning and Design at the University of Hong Kong. He worked in Asia for 15 years before joining Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Department of Geography and The Environment. He instructs: qualitative research, regional geography, energy geography and urban geography. His research involves urban noise pollution and livability; smart citizenship; and contested urban futures. David has served as a research fellow at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore); and a post-doc at Concordia University (Montréal), where he studied the politics of urban infrastructure in India. Dr. Sadoway has worked in the UN, government, non-profit sector; and with planning consultants in Toronto and Vancouver.