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Hong Kong's Social Movements: Economic Impact

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Hong Kong is one of the countries which actively involved in social demonstrations or protests. The protesters are young and old alike with a diverse mix of families in Hong Kong. Based on a crowd survey by three scholars, almost a fifth of the population were 45 years old and older, whereas about 60% of the people involved were under 30. Journalists stated that many shopkeepers, drivers and others helped the demonstrators with their water supplies and financial support. It stated that about 1.7 million people protested in the rain. About 15% of the population in Hong Kong will be interested in involving protests. There were sporadic incidents of violence, for an example when protesters vandalized or interrupted the activities of the Legislative Council. Hong Kong social movement have impacted the nation in many ways. In terms of economically, months of anti-government protests hit Hong Kong’s economy hard because demonstrators were being forced to shut down police on the streets, schools, and businesses on the streets for some days and the transport was disrupted. There have been tourist’s dollars entry was the economically significant for the city. The trade tensions between China and the US have taken toll, and many experts expect a worsening of the economic unease. The city’s first yearly recession since the 2009 global financial crisis is expected to occur by policy. There is little indication of a decline in pro-democracy demonstrations, as pro-democracy parties received a slant as the evidence of widespread support for the protest movement and repudiation of government and Beijing’s handling of the monthly political crisis. Hong Kong had the impact for the first time in a decade in the third quarter in a recession. According to Iris Pang, an ING economist, the recession is likely to deteriorate in the final quarter of the year. Hong Kong now is expected to face the most extreme decline in any advanced economy this year. The economy of Hong Kong is still struck by the double whammy of internal political instability and trade tensions between China and the US. It was stated by Tommy Wu, the supreme economist for Oxford Economics.

The economic impact of social movement in Hong Kong can be seen various segment. Firstly, it is focused on tourist entries to the country as an impact from social movements in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, a state with a large population abroad which is very significant to foreign visitors. According to World Bank data, 28 million people visited the country in 2018 with already 7.4 million people in the city. The value of Hong Kong exports of goods and services including tourism expenditure is almost twice that of their sheer domestic product. It makes the economy especially susceptible to the visitors’ slowdown. Tourist arrivals in Hong Kong decreased by 26% over the same time frame in 2018, the second largest fall since the records began in the early 90s, in the three months to September. Chinese tourists usually represent 70% of Hong Kong’s visitors, but over the same time their numbers dropped by 29%. Based on the most recent data from the Hong Kong tourist board, in September of 2019 the hotel occupancy rate fell to 63%.

Next, the impact of social movement is focused on the products sold in Hong Kong. Products sold in Hong Kong is primarily from Chinese reexport goods which were impacted by conflicts in trade between United States and China and the global perspective that has deteriorated. Imports dropped by 11% over the same duration of the 2018 whilst in 2019, three months to October exports fell by 8%. In September, China’s exports representing almost half of exports to the territory decreased by 5% compared with 2018 in the same month. Exports from Hong Kong to the United States which is the its second biggest trading partner, have been even worse. In the same month, it fell by 24%. It is expected that in 2019 and 2020 the export impetus will remain weak, hampered by a global demand decline and strained trade between the United States and China. While China and the United States have reached some relief from the last mini deal, which delayed further US tariffs in October as intended, following the dramatic escalation of the trade war in August, much uncertainty continues and tariffs are not expected to be routed soon. Tax concessions and incentives have been made by the Hong Kong government, which will help businesses cope with the crisis. However, it that will not have significant effect until the political unrest ends. Economists are rising dim with the country’s outlook, with average growth projections revised to 0.7% in November 2020 compared to previous estimates of 2.4% by Consensus Economics. Some analysts say that this is actually also hopeful. Tommy Wu, the supreme economist for Oxford Economics, stated that Hong Kong GDP prediction for 2019 is down 1.4%, with a further 1.3% fall end of 2019. He also added that the downside risk to the fourth quarter and 2019’s growth forecasts is high.

Moreover, the economic impact can be seen different range of economy situation of the country. There were short term and long-term impact on Hong Kong’s economy situation due to the social demonstration in Hong Kong. Firstly, in term of short-term it is as the demonstrations continue to hurry, the short-term economic effects on Hong Kong’s people start to intensify. Among the most obvious signs of its effect is a decline in consumer spending on non-essential goods. Summer retail sales are estimated to decline by more than 10% from the year of 2018 from July to August. The demonstrations had made that closed down Hong Kong International Airport for around two days also took a toll. Aircraft experts estimate that Hong Kong has been hit by a flight cancellation of 76 million dollars. As Hong Kong’s GDP accounts for around 5% of the airport, any delays are expected to affect the economic growth of the special administrative region for the year. There is further evidence, in particular thanks to travel experts from at least 22 nations, that disruption have kept away visitors and commercial travelers to Hong Kong. More than 75% of all people arriving in Hong Kong have delayed tourists from mainland China.

Next, the impact has been shown in long-term impact to the economic situation of the nation from the growth of social movements. It is much harder to quantify the long-term consequences of the demonstrations and Chinese reaction to them. One of them is that Hong Kong is a center for companies in China or the country that are internationally involved. Around 1,530 multinational corporations were established their regional headquarters in the town and it was found by the government of Hong Kong in 2018. Out of that, 290 companies were American companies. Historically, businesses in Hong Kong have preferred to build shops because of their desirable location and because of their belief that they represent a sanctuary where the rule of law is robust having that in comparison with China. It changed as more multinational companies decided to move their headquarters onto the continent as their economic power increased. By attempting to address the demonstrations by gaining further control of Hong Kong, China would be a reason to hold Hong Kong as its global base if its legal environment were to be disrupted by the multinationals. The trickle from Hong Kong companies may be well become a flood with withdrawal of high-paid jobs. The other long-term issue is how China’s ties with the rest of the world will impact the Hong Kong protest. United States President Donald Trump informed China that if it is to sign an agreement to end the trade war, China will deal ‘humanly’ with the demonstrations. It was also added that if Beijing takes a heavy-handed strategy, other world leaders will change the way they communicate with China and also Hong Kong.

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The social movements in Hong Kong are vastly known between the nation and other countries. Mass anti-government rallies in Hong Kong recently have caught the attention of the world. The protesters, armed with modern communication technology, have centered their frustration on the military, police and signs of Beijing’s rule in Hong Kong. The increasingly leaderless demonstrations imply that they are a move away from a political movement’s conventional structure. Alternatively, demonstrators from Hong Kong organize each rally through a hierarchical system of organization. In order to facilitate smooth sharing of information, Hong Kong civilians relied on messaging apps such as Telegram and a live map that helps protesters instantly notice the police location. Hong Kong people have tactics which become ‘textbook examples’ of demonstrators in other countries, from street blockades to air traffic disturbances. Mass protests against the state have lately occurred in countries like Indonesia and the Catalan region of Spain. In Indonesia, after mass protests overturned the regime of Suharto in 1998, the demonstrators were among the largest student rallies. The demonstration cause is outrage over a statute that the students say weakens the war on shooting and other controversial new legislation, including a criminal code that outlaws sex outside marriage. Often the demonstrations turned violent, with protesters rallying at security forces in front of government buildings, burning tires and throwing stones as well as petrol bombs. The police responded by shooting the demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons.

The vast known about Hong Kong social movement have spread to many countries with high increase technology usage and social media platforms. Data about the demonstrations was disseminated through social media and messaging apps, according to the students who engaged in the protests. Several students translated videos and articles about the strategies of Hong Kong demonstrators to extinguish tear gas into Bahasa Indonesia to help demonstrators learn several basic knowledge about how to handle tear gas. Even through WhatsApp groups, Line groups, Twitter and Instagram, the students shared information on how to handle with tear gas. The students also arranged discussion groups to address the other strategies of Hong Kong demonstrators and the history to their campaign. The students also followed a strategy that during the demonstrations many protesters in Indonesia covered their faces, which have been a strategy which Hong Kong demonstrators unanimously followed. Hong Kong people’s persistence throughout the recent months was truly inspiring.

Meanwhile, in Catalonia, separatists demonstrating against the incarceration of nine of their members were blatantly following Hong Kong’s crafted methods. Soon after Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan politicians to prison terms of up to 13 years for their role in a failed 2017 secession attempt, 240,000 Russian designed the Telegram chat app users received a message telling them to travel to Barcelona’s second busiest El Prat airport in Spain. The message-sent by a new online separatist group ‘Tsunami Democratic’, which is related aim was to ‘paralyze’ the airport like protests did in September in Hong Kong. Tsunami Democratic uses communication apps such as Telegram and created its own software to issue orders for its members by an unknown leader to perform acts of what it calls passive civil disobedience. The region’s massive protests often spiraled into violent police clashes. Protesters destroyed hundreds of trash bins and used petrol grenades, acid, asphalt fragments and other weapons of police attack. With the aid of 130 boarding passes distributed by Tsunami Democratic through an app, Catalan demonstrators stormed the airport to interrupt air traffic.

Hong Kong protesters used a similar tactic, buying tickets for low-cost flights to enter the airport and organizing a mass demonstration there. The regional police force of Catalonia stated that demonstrators sometimes used laser pointers against police in Barcelona, a popular tactic in Hong Kong. Many Catalan protesters quote the Hong Kong demonstrations as a source of inspiration.

Although Catalan demonstrators in Hong Kong have benefited a great deal from their counterparts, some analysts point to fundamental differences between the two protest movements. People have different requests in Hong Kong and Catalonia. That the five demands of Hong Kong demonstrators do not include seeking independence for the special administrative region of China, while Catalan protesters hope to achieve the separation of the city from Spain.


  1. Cheng, J. Y. S. (2014). The Emergence of Radical Politics in Hong Kong: Causes and Impact. China Review, 14(1), 199-232.

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