Among the demands of the notably polite, youthful protesters who have been camping out on Hong Kong’s streets are universal suffrage, the resignation of the Hong Kong’s chief executive, and a more responsive government.
But another factor driving the protests appears to be pop culture. An interesting precursor to this week’s Occupy Central movement began last year, when the government denied a broadcast licence to HKTV, a would-be third free TV network that had been developed, with much fanfare, as a competitor to the city’s two existing free channels. It seems many residents — especially the younger generation — found the existing offerings lacking, complaining that the programming was too formulaic, predictable, and safe.
Plans for the new network were announced in 2010 by entrepreneur Ricky Wong, who had made a fortune in the telecom business, according to The Atlantic. Hiring 500 employees to emulate successful American TV shows, he had promised to deliver original dramas and documentaries, and to bring Hong Kong its own golden age of television to rival such beloved American programs as “Glee” and “House of Cards.”
Hong Kong’s government, led by chief executive C.Y. Leung, apparently didn’t see the need for another channel and denied HKTV a licence, sparking a protest that brought an estimated 100,000 residents into the streets. Some observers speculated that the other TV networks’ political connections helped kill the HKTV project.
According to Cloud Yip, a reporter from Hong Kong, the local government decision to reject HKTV’s application for a TV licence with little explanation “changed how most teens who don’t have a particular political attachment view [chief executive C.Y. Leung’s] government.”
“HKTV planted the root of many of the protests happening this year,” Yip tells Business Insider. “The HKTV incident just taught us an important lesson that being silent and being nice will not make the government change its mind.”
Indeed, Joshua Wong, the 17-year-old student leader who’s become the face of the current Hong Kong protests, was also reportedly active in the earlier demonstrations.
Protestors have been calling for Leung to resign since the latest demonstrations started last week. They view him as too closely aligned with the Beijing government, which recently announced that it would screen all candidates who wish to be considered for the city’s 2017 chief executive election.
So far, Leung has refused to step down.
Political issues might be the main factor driving this week protestors, but the HKTV controversy helped get Hong Kong’s youth interested when they might have otherwise been passive.
Cloud Yip contributed reporting for this story.
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