The Umbrella Movement – The Role of Mainstream & Social Media?

Background

The Umbrella Movement was a political issue about Hong Kong democracy protests in 2014. For expressing the dissatisfaction of the decision of Standing Committee of National People’s Congress, which was described as a selective pre-screening of candidates for the 2017 of election of Hong Kong’s chief executive and fighting for freer election, a 79-days occupation of the central business districts in Hong Kong therefore happened. In the movement, since the major protesters used the umbrellas as a tool for passive resistance to Hong Kong Police force, its name so called “The Umbrella Movement”.

 

Features

“Occupy Central” also known as the umbrella movement was undoubtedly a political movement with very special features. Unlike other political movements demanding democracy which have an official and recognized leader, like Aung San Suu Kyi who organized the whole political movement in Myanmar, however, the umbrella movement is not leaded by a specific leader. The participants were from all walks of life, which is the fragmented forces. In the entire movement, there were some student leaders, and actors’ representatives, and the law professors from University of Hong Kong, as known as Benny Tai. The fact is there was no recognized leader. That’s why, the mainstream media plays a significant role from influencing to even somehow boosting the movement.

 

Political Communication – The role of Mainstream media

“Purposeful communication about politics.” It perfectly demonstrated the role that media is playing in reporting every political issues, including the umbrella movement. The mainstream media in Hong Kong, like TVB (The biggest television company in HK), radio broadcast and newspaper is actually increasing the public participation, realizing the media effects. Media effects research studies the way in which media output, influencing audience members in terms of perceptions, attitudes and behavior. The mainstream media on one hand can report the immediate news to audience, and give a first-hand information to the general public on the other hand. In certain extent, the mainstream media can form a basic understanding for the audience of the political issue itself. For example, Hong Kong people or international society would know there was a political issue happening, and providing the public with an angle to know more, except for going there by themselves due to the mainstream media. However, media organisations are not completely objective. Some media organizations may have their own positions and purpose on different political issues. TVB can be considered as the prime example here, as they needed to consider the advertisement and the investment from Chinese companies, for avoiding the conflicts, TVB will be wisely selecting or even filter some contents and images. In this case, the audience might not be able to receive the most comprehensive information and details, but being constrained to a restricted vision. Thus, diversity of media is required – social media.

 

The role of social media

Social media sites construct a public sphere to unite the supporters. In umbrella movement, social media is actually playing the role of networking people. As mentioned, Umbrella Movement is ‘leaderless’, which means that this movement did not have an explicit leaders or formal organization. Every participant was equal, no hierarchy and no clear instruction to indicate what the protesters needed to do, so they used social media platforms to communicate the following political actions. As a result, through sharing posts on personal timeline, creating groups on FB, and commenting, social media platforms have put the netizens who have similar/same opinions and position together. It further helps to encourage and connect more people, especially the young generation to participate. Besides, social media also provided people with different angles for the citizen to review the movement itself. It is a platform for everyone single one to share their opinion, first-hand experience, and even doing live show. With all these digital functions, it is believed that people can have diversified angle to see and discover more. At the end, social media could undoubtedly influence the entire movement, from peoples’ attitude to how they reacted.

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