A series of surveys conducted between June 9 and August 4 have revealed that the Hong Kong protests are largely driven by the younger sections of the population. It found that almost 60 percent of the protestors are aged 30 years or younger, with 75 percent of them having some sort of higher education.
“57.7 percent of the participants were age 29 or younger, while more than 26 percent were between 20 and 24 years old — the biggest segment of the protest camp. Nearly 18 percent of the protesters surveyed were 45 or older. In terms of education, 73.8 percent of the protesters said they had received at least some tertiary education, and most of the other protesters said they had attended secondary school,” according to the South China Morning Post.
The study was conducted by three local scholars. More than 6,600 people participated in the survey. About 16.6 percent of the respondents stated that it was their first experience in a social movement. Almost 60 percent had taken part in the 2014 Occupy protests. Politically, 38 percent of the participants were pan-democrats while 28.5 percent identified themselves as localists. Just 0.2 percent said that they were pro-establishment. About 50.6 percent of the survey respondents saw themselves as belonging to the middle class.
The researchers also looked at differences between mass rallies, static demonstrations, and fluid demonstrations. In mass rallies, protestors of all age groups were almost equally present. In static demonstrations, where protestors stay at one place, about 23 to 43 percent of the participants were found to be 30 years of age or older. But in fluid demonstrations, where protestors keep changing their locations, the participation of those aged 30 and above dropped to 13.8 to 30.4 percent. Interestingly, it was the fluid demonstrations, which include high participation from young people, that saw the greatest number of confrontations with the police.
Now or never
The reason why the youth of Hong Kong are involved so deeply in the protests is that most of them realize that the democracy of Hong Kong is at a critical juncture. If they allow Beijing to get complete control over Hong Kong, the freedoms and the democratic society they enjoyed until now will not exist anymore.
David, a British national who was born in Hong Kong, returned to the city solely to join the protest. “The older generation didn’t take their responsibility so we are forced to… It’s only people between 15 and 30 doing this. What we are doing is protecting ourselves and protecting the next generation… If we are not going to do it, no one is going to do it,” he said to the BBC.
The huge participation rates of youngsters have also made a few protests pretty violent. Long-time pro-democracy activists think that the youth of the city are getting agitated as they feel like a mouse caught in a trap. Having nowhere to escape, these young protestors are responding to authority the only way they think they can — by being overly aggressive.
Leung Yiu-chung, a 66-year-old pro-democracy lawmaker, tried to stop a group of protestors from smashing a door into the legislature building on July 1. However, he was tackled out of the way by youngsters who were seething in anger against the government. “They questioned what could the legislature still achieve when even 2 million people have failed to budge the government… Sadly, I could not answer. These young people are in despair and they have no hope for the government anymore,” Leung said to CNN.
Protestors are increasingly sympathizing with radical actions according to various surveys. 717 people at a protest were asked whether they agreed with the statement: “When the government fails to listen, the use of radical tactics by protesters is understandable.” 95.9 percent of the respondents agreed with it. As the Hong Kong police exert more force to control the protestors, we can expect the incidents of violence to rise.