Author: Jane Richards

Hong Kong’s one country, two systems model denies meaningful political equality for citizens. Instead citizens have engaged government in dialogue and have been granted a foothold in politics through protest. However, this equilibrium was upset in 2019 to 2020. Protests took place that were unprecedented in their scale, duration, widespread support and participation. And yet, government refused to engage in any kind of dialogue or deliberative action. This refusal, along with the use of excessive force by police, provoked an unprecedented escalation from civil disobedience to principled uncivil disobedience. This article argues that the escalation of principled uncivil disobedience was not only justified, but satisfied a duty that citizens have to resist injustice. It relies on the legal and political theory of Candice Delmas, arguing that while citizens have a prima facie obligation to obey the law, where law or policy becomes unjust, citizens may have a duty to resist that injustice, even if it means breaking the law. To illustrate this point, one type of principled uncivil disobedience that has become prevalent – graffiti – is used as an analytical lens. Graffiti communicates protestors’ grievances and subverts authority by reclaiming the space. It is allegorical of both the movement and the city; just as the cityscape has been permanently altered by the protests, so too has Hong Kong been changed by this period of unrest.

In: Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law