The effect of digital technology in promoting democracy: A Case Study of Hong Kong Alliance

  • Shi Zhang The University of Melbourne
Keywords: Digital technology, Democracy, Digital activism, Collective action, Digital storytelling, June Fourth Incidence


Abstract: Since June 4, 2019, the 30th anniversary of the June Fourth massacre, mass protests have erupted across Hong Kong and continued today. This paper chooses a representative activism organization namely Hong Kong Alliance (Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China) and takes it as a lens to analyse and estimate the role and effect of digital technologies in influencing the political campaign in the digital age. Specifically, this paper employs the connective and collective action theory to analyse the organisation structure and the operation mode of Hong Kong Alliance, and focus on the digital storytelling strategy that Hong Kong Alliance employed. Furthermore, this paper also discusses the criteria for assessing digital movement purposed by Yana Breindl and find that the static evaluation criterion is not appropriate in the current digital space. On the contrary, a dynamic appraisal method which does not only assess the result but also consider the value of the process is in need.


Download data is not yet available.


Anderson, S., 2009, The Benefits of Distraction and Overstimulation -- New York Magazine - Nymag. [online] New York Magazine. Available at: (Accessed 7 Jun. 2019).

Antony, T., 2006, The Tank Man | FRONTLINE | PBS. [online] Available at: (Accessed 20 May 2019).

Bennett, W. L. and Segerberg, A., 2012,. THE LOGIC OF CONNECTIVE ACTION, Information, Communication & Society, 15:5, 739-768, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2012.670661

Briggs, A. and Burke, P., 2009, A social history of the media : from Gutenberg to the Internet. Polity. Available at: (Accessed: 7 June 2019).

Butler, J., 1997, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” In Writing the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist Theory, edited by K. Conboy, N. Medina and S. Stanbury, 401–17. New York: Columbia University Press.

Brook, T., 1998, Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-3638-1.

Breindl, Y., 2013, ‘ASSESSING SUCCESS IN INTERNET CAMPAIGNING The case of digital rights advocacy in the European Union’, INFORMATION COMMUNICATION & SOCIETY, 16(9), pp. 1419–1440. doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2012.707673.

Branigan, T., 2009, China blocks Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Hotmail ahead of Tiananmen anniversary. [online] the Guardian. Available at: (Accessed 20 May 2019).

BBC News., 2019, Tens of thousands hold Tiananmen Square vigil. [online] Available at: (Accessed 5 Jun. 2019).

Chadwick, A., 2007, ‘Digital Network Repertoires and Organizational Hybridity’. Political Communication 24(3). Taylor and Francis: 283–301. 20 May 2019).

Calhoun, C., 1989, ‘Revolution and Repression in Tiananmen Square’, Society, 26(6), pp. 21–38. doi: 10.1007/BF02700237.

Chambers, G., 2019, Alabama abortion law: Celebrities share abortion stories with hashtag #YouKnowMe after controversial ruling. [online] Evening Standard. Available at: (Accessed 20 May 2019).

Chen, K, 2019, World's largest monument to the 1989 Tiananmen massacre unveiled ahead of 30th anniversary | Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. [online] Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Available at: (Accessed 10 Jun. 2019).

Dunn, M, 2019, 30 years after Tiananmen: social media helps keep memory of 'June 4' alive. [online] Available at: (Accessed 10 Jun. 2019)., 2018, Workshop on 64 requiem songwriting. [online] Available at: (Accessed 18 May 2019).

Gutmann, E., 2014, The slaughter : mass killings, organ harvesting, and China’s secret solution to its dissident problem. Prometheus Books. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2019).

Grubenmann, S., Rimscha, M. B. and Siegert, G., 2017, Commercial Communication in the Digital Age : Information or Disinformation? De Gruyter Mouton (Age of Access? Grundfragen der Informationsgesellschaft: 7). Available at: (Accessed: 5 June 2019).

Habermas, J., 1989, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, Thomas Burger, Cambridge Massachusetts: The MIT Press, p. 36, ISBN 978-0-262-58108-0.

Habermas, J, 1989, The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article. In Critical theory and Society. A Reader, ed. Stephen E. Bronner and Douglas Kellner, 136–142., New York: Routledge, p. 136.

Ide, B. and Huang, J., 2018, Calls for China to Face Ghosts of its Past on Tiananmen Anniversary. [online] VOA. Available at: (Accessed 19 May 2019).

Internet world stats., 2019, World Internet Users Statistics and 2019 World Population Stats. [online] Available at: (Accessed 6 Jun. 2019).

InformationWeek, 2008, ‘Skype Defends VoIP IM Monitoring In China; Sensitive words include references to the Chinese Communist Party, the Falun Gong, Taiwan independence, Tibet, and the ongoing tainted milk scandal in China’. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2019).

June 4th Museum, 2019, Crowdfunding for reopening a larger June 4th Museum. [online] Available at: (Accessed 9 Jun. 2019).

Kaun, A, 2017, 'Our time to act has come': desynchronisation, social media time and protest movements’, Media, Culture and Society 39(4): 469-486.

Kirsty, H., 2012, ‘Free Speech in the Digital World under Threat?’, Economic and Political Weekly, 47(46), p. 18. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2019).

Lovvorn, J. F., 2011, ‘Theorizing Digital Storytelling: From Narrative Practice to Racial Counterstory.’ In Narrative Acts: Rhetoric, Race and Identity, Knowledge, edited by D. Journet, B. A. Boehm and C. E. Britt, 97–112. New York: Hampton Press.

Longe, O. B., Danquah, P., and Ebem, D. U., 2012, ‘De-individuation, anonymity and unethical behavior in cyberspace--explorations in the valley of digital temptations’, Computing and Information Systems, (1), p. 46. Available at: (Accessed: 5 June 2019).

Li, P., Li, M. H.and Mark, S., 2011, Culture and Politics in China: An Anatomy of Tiananmen Square. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4128-1199-6.

Lim, L., 2014, The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-934770-4.

Lipschutz, R, 2005, ‘Power, politics and global civil society’, MILLENNIUM-JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, 33(3), pp. 747–769. Available at: (Accessed: 18 May 2019).

McChesney, R., 2013, ‘The Internet and Capitalism I: Where Dinosaurs Roam?’, in Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy, The New Press, New York, pp.96-129.

McClain, D. C., 2018, ‘Regulating Feeling in the First American Novel: Sympathy, Sensibility, and Sentiment in William Hill Brown’s The Power of Sympathy’, Studies in American Fiction, (2), p. 143. Available at: (Accessed: 18 May 2019).

McCarthy, J. D. and Zald, M. N., 1973, The Trend of Social Movements in America: Profes- sionalization and Resource Mobilization, General Learning Press, Morristown, NJ. McCarthy, J. D. & Zald, M. N. (1977) ‘Resource mobilization and social move- ments: a partial theory’, American Journal of Sociology, vol. 82, no. 6, pp. 1212–1241.

Moore, M., 2011, Wikileaks: no bloodshed inside Tiananmen Square, cables claim. The telegraph. Available at: (Accessed: 18 May 2019).

MacFarquhar, R, 1993, The Politics of China: The Eras of Mao and Deng. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge.

Miles, J., 1997, The Legacy of Tiananmen: China in Disarray. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-08451-7. p. 28

Nakamura, L., 2008, Digitizing race. [electronic resource] : visual cultures of the Internet. University of Minnesota Press (Electronic mediations: 23). Available at: (Accessed: 5 June 2019).

Prono, L., 2017, ‘Digital Storytelling’, Salem Press Encyclopedia. Available at: (Accessed: 18 May 2019).

Ruth, M. 2018, ‘Social Media and Political Campaigns’, Salem Press Encyclopedia. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2019).

Ruth, S and Greenidge, W. L., 2009, “Digital Storytelling: Extending the Potential for Struggling Writers.” Reading Teacher 63.4 : 284–95. Print.

Shirky, C., 2011, ‘The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change’, Foreign Affairs, 90(1), p. 28. Available at: (Accessed: 7 June 2019).

Thrift, N., 2004, “Intensities of Feeling: Towards a Spatial Politics of Affect.” Geografasika Annaler: Serie B, Human Geography 86 (1): 57–78. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2019).

Trimboli, D., 2018, ‘Affective Everyday Media: The Performativity of Whiteness in Australian Digital Storytelling’. Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies 32 (3). Taylor: 44–59. (Accessed: 19 May 2019).

Tomkins, S. S. and Demos, E. V. (1995) Exploring affect : the selected writings of Silvan S. Tomkins. Cambridge University Press (Studies in emotion and social interaction).

Available at: (Accessed: 21 August 2019).

Yu, L. et al., 2018, ‘The Moderating Effect of Geographic Area on the Relationship Between Age, Gender, and Information and Communication Technology Literacy and Problematic Internet Use’, CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 21(6), pp. 367–373. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2017.0503.

YouTube., 2010, Zhang xianling, representative of the "Tian'anmen mothers", the 21st anniversary of the June 4th movement. [online] Available at: (Accessed 19 May 2019).

YouTube, 2018, June 4th for young people - Xiaoxin Tang. [online] Available at: (Accessed 19 May 2019).

Zuckerman, E., 2008, Worldchanging | Evaluation + Tools + Best Practices: The Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism. [online] Available at: (Accessed 7 Jun. 2019).

How to Cite
Zhang, S. (2020). The effect of digital technology in promoting democracy: A Case Study of Hong Kong Alliance. Proceedings of the International Conference on Social Sciences, 6(1), 37-47.