Social Media’s role in Hong Kong’s Occupy Central

Photo by Alfred Chung,

Over the decade, new media are well developed and become a part of our lives. The web development has subverted the way of transferring message and information, which change the way people consume news. The ecosystem of news industry has also changed dramatically, which breaks the boundaries between media and public. It is blurring the distinction between journalist and audience. The reporter’s identity therefore becomes unclear.

In this few months, issue of “occupy central” is flooded into Hong Kong through social media and traditional media. When picking up the phone, people can easily share and forward the updated information about the protest in Facebook and WhatsApp. Some people may also use Telegram Messenger and Fire Chat to mobilize others to attend the protest.

People are eager for the scene of conflict about “occupy central”. So it is easy to find heap of conflict videos in Facebook and YouTube. Everyone can be a citizen journalist by rising up their phone and pushing the video button. You can see that different types of reporter emerge, especially the web media. In this way, traditional media seem to be in disadvantage situation as they are not fast enough to publish updated news.


Yellow Ribbon, Symbol of supporting occupy central

“Social media is at the front-line in Hong Kong as pro-democracy supporters take to Facebook to voice their protest.”

The Independent

Facebook plays an important role during occupy central. In early days, many Facebook users changed their profile pictures to yellow ribbon in order to support the students in occupy central movement. Some people who support the police changed to blue ribbon.

HK Apple Daily, a popular Newspaper in Hong Kong, reported that Facebook seems to be a “political X-ray machine” to automatically classify your friends. Some of them even ask their police friend or whom support police to “unfriend” them. Facebook’s profile pictures become tools to distinguish enemies and opponents.

Apple Daily

HK Apple Daily creates a special website for umbrella revolution. Users can select and share the video and news article by clicking “Twitter” and “Facebook” button in the left. Those shares will be go directly to two social media. The website also offers a comment area for users’ responses.

“Apple Action News” will also be uploaded regularly in YouTube. Up to now, there are 262 videos with 7,056,941 views. HK Apple Daily has also set up some live videos about the protest.

D100 Hong Kong Radio

D100 Hong Kong Radio is running an internet radio in Hong Kong. During occupy central, they post many photos about the protest on Facebook regularly. The photos are posted with quotes of Hong Kong Authorities and celebrities, and usually try to encourage more people to “like” and “share” by saying “If you agree, like and share” at the bottom of the photos.

The above photo shows the quote of Long Hair, a Left-wing political activist, saying that “CY. Leung, we don’t afraid of you. We tell 689 Regime that we don’t afraid you to arrest me. Clearance can’t clear people’s heart”.

Socializing Apps

Photo of The Wall Street Journal

Telegram Messenger

Facebook and WhatsApp are widely used by Hong Kong people in daily lives. But, during the protest, organizers mainly use Telegram Messenger for broadcasting pro-democracy messages because of its encrypted messaging services.

Crystal Au, one of the helpers of Hong Kong Federation of Students, said: “We used Telegram Messenger to spread information. Due to the security concerns, we delete all messages immediately after sending to supporters. ”


Those social media are convenient to spread message quickly. They also raised a concern of spreading misinformation.

Jeff Chu and Helsa Chan posted an article named “5 WAYS PROTESTERS ORGANIZED #OCCUPYCENTRAL” on They said: “Many of the online rumors have cited highly placed “friends of friends,” say, a “senior officer” in law enforcement who heard “tanks would be sent out tonight. For your safety, please leave immediately.”

Many people even received some voice message from WhatsApp saying that “my friend is a police, he told me to must leave now. Because they are armed and determine to shot down protesters”

Video of Whatsapp Spread message

Breaking news of Occupy Central: spread from WhatsApp ‘If (protesters) don’t retreat within one hour, (police) will shot'

Content of video: "Please help me to share it out, i know many people who are police, like my family members. they told me that the police has already arranged all ambulances to be operated and stood by in the hospital. Although they say they will only shot (protester’s) hands and legs, the police will possibly shot. Now, (protesters are) not simply occupy central, but resist to the police. The police must shot. I have already asked them. Please spread out this message. If you wish to stay behind at the scene, I suggest you to leave, because they must shot."

The person who post the video on YouTube said that he or she doesn't know the information is true or not, and stated “Source: spread from WhatsApp”.

In order to verify the information, some HKU Journalism students have self-initiated a Facebook page to publish verified information of Occupy Central.

Some scholars believe that the Internet, especially the social media provide a new platform and resource for social movements, which change their mode of organisation and mobilization.


Department of Government and Public Administration of CUHK entrusted Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey (CCPOS) to conduct a survey in November, 2014, about “Media and Public Affair”. The survey was successfully interviewed 1,006 Hong Kong citizen above 18 years old by phone.

It shows that 47.7% respondents tend to oppose the movement. More young people (below 30 years old) support the movement than older people (55 years old or above). There are 85 % of supporters using internet very often. More than 43% of them “always” use Facebook. and less than 20% supports watch TV . Meanwhile, 45% of people against the protest watch TV to obtain information and more than 40% of them seldom or never use Facebook.

In the aspect of political mobilization, nearly half of supporters have invited or encouraged others to make political action, which outstrip the proportion of people against the protest.

photo by Billy H.C.Kwok, The Wall Street Journal

To conclude this survey, supporters are mainly affected by social media, especially Facebook, during the protest. Most of the supporters are below 30 years old. They tend to invite and encourage other to attend the protest.

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