Civil Disobedience


In this post, I would like to engage in the post on civil disobedience in Hong Kong and analyze the movement in reference to Arendt’s article on civil disobedience.


The atmosphere in Hong Kong is quite unstable, because the downtown area is occupied by people protesting against the government, and indirectly against the PRC government, for not providing a democratic election method for the election of the Hong Kong chief governor in 2017.


It is interesting to see that this disobedience movement is unique in its own way, and it actually differs a little from the definitions and descriptions provided by Arendt. This is due to the unique status of Hong Kong and the unprecedented situation it faces now.


First of all, the demand of the protesters is not the demand of minority group. The demand for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, I suppose, is basically willed by the majority of the Hong Kong people who participate in politics (others who do not participate in politics do not care about this issue and do not have a stance). This is different from the type analyzed by Arendt, and the one lead by M.L. King. This cannot be said as the minority view of the Hong Kong people inside the bigger China, because this is totally Hong Kong’s own affair. Moreover, most people in other parts of China do not know well about this movement, because the media in China is heavily censored.


This obedience movement is essentially the protest against an unjust government, be it the Hong Kong government or the higher PRC government. The officials in these two bodies of government are not democratically elected, and Hong Kong people are resentful towards their government (in other part of China many people do not even know that their government can be bad). Note that the basic law of Hong Kong (the mini constitution of Hong Kong), which states things that could potentially hinder the development of universal suffrage, is not a law that is designed or willed by Hong Kong people themselves. The PRC government simply promulgated the law coercively. There is no such bonding and association that the law could bring to people.


The whole situation is basically about the coercive power being acted unwillingly upon a group of people, and the two parties, the power and the coerced, are not bonded on any mutual ground. This is different from the kind of disobedience Arendt describes.


3 Responses to “Civil Disobedience”

  1. akolot Says:

    This situation the prime an example of how a government that operates mostly on violence does not successfully assert its authority over its people. Violence, in Arendts definition, is an instrument designed to mutliply natural strength and is used for coersion [143 Arendt]. Usually paired with force it is the phycial and social movements that arise from natural circumstances. “Violence is by nature isntrumental; like all means,it always stands in need of guidance and justification through the end it pursues. And what needs justification by something else cannot be the essence of anything,” [Arendt 150].

    In this sitution the government is using extreme and violent means to quell the protests, however this does not stop the movement. In fact, most protesters are armed with phones and cameras documenting police brutality which adds another dimension to Arendt’s claim on the inefficiency of violece. Furthermore the quickness with which the information is spread garners more solidarity with the civil disobedience/movement of the protesters, and thus police/military action is no longer efficient/justified because of international sympathy.

  2. givenarnold Says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I’ve been wanting to learn more about the on going protests in Hong Kong but the media seems clogged with other news these days. Recently, However, I did see that Hong Kong police were able to successfully clear out the protesters from the central occupation area, which was a significant intersection of the city. And in other tidbits of news, it seems as if the government is consistently winning its battles with the protesters. This is interesting to me. If the majority of Honk Kong’s population is pro-democracy, I would expect the government to have lost control over the election. Yet through non-lethal forms of violence they maintain power.

    The exciting part about the events in Honk Kong is that we can see a situation of civil disobedience, which is similar to ones we’ve learned about in class, unfold in real time. Though the government has maintained power thus far, I think continued persistence among the protesters will cause the government to make more desperate and violent actions. Once government orders reach a certain level of violence, we might see the police start to refuse orders. Although my knowledge of the entire situation is limited, I think the protesters will triumph as long as they maintain numbers and persistence.

  3. kamalablah Says:

    I think the protests still have a lot to do with what Arendt is saying, because the protesters are acting in concert to try and change the election system. Moreover, she argues that a government relying on only violence cannot sustain itself, which might apply in this situation (depending on how the Chinese government responds to the protesters).

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