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Kyle Doyle '21

ars nova, 2021

Major: Natural Science
Bio: I am a Natural Sciences Major (FCLC '21) and am working towards matriculating to medical school after I graduate. I am passionate about matters regarding health care and global politics.

Title of Research: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Ongoing Hong Kong Protests
Mentor: Dr. Olena Nikolayenko
Abstract: Outbreaks are an uncommon topic in social movement research as they tend to be thought of apolitically in political science parlance. Yet, as history demonstrates, they often are catalysts that incite dissidence in otherwise complacent albeit disgruntled populaces. Further, most literature focuses on how outbreaks spark dissent, not what effect outbreaks have on protest action. The temporal position of outbreaks is also limiting, as movements they energize tend to occur during or after but rarely spanning all time. The ongoing Hong Kong (HK) protests provide a rare sample to compare directly the effect an outbreak has on protest activity by referencing pre-outbreak data as a control. This inquiry analyzed the effects the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic had on protest activity in HK utilizing protest event analysis to code reported events from June 2019-May 2020 in two HK-based news outlets and comparing them to community trend data with official confirmed case reports to generalize the effect legislation and quarantining had on protest attendance. The paper hypothesized that COVID-19 significantly reduced protest turnout and was supported by the data-the number and frequency of events before and during COVID were far greater and fewer respectively. Community Mobility Reports, search trend data and contemporaneous legislation corroborate this too. Considering the unrelenting nature of these protests despite perceived government and police encroachment, their local popular support, and their longevity, these results compel attention to the concept that perceived unnecessary risk [of infection] potentially overrides the drive to protest more than any other deterrent.