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Abstract

"721 唔見人, 831 打死人!"[On 7.21 you weren’t there for us; on 8.31 you were out to kill us.] This protest slogan is the narrative by which Hong Kong remembers the protests of 2019. While the 2019 Hong Kong protests had begun as a campaign against proposed extradition legislation, “721” and “831,” as Hongkongers understand them now, have steered the focus of the Movement to government unaccountability, police brutality, and a sense of city-wide insecurity. Continuing to refer to the unrest of 2019 as the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill (Anti-ELAB) Movement, scholarly studies have yet to take this shift into account. Why did the narrative change and how did it come to characterize the protests? Building on Sewell’s theorization of eventful history, I argue that the occurrences in Hong Kong’s latest social unrest underwent a process of “eventing” wherein actors experiencing the city’s history fast in the making both (i) insisted on their role as narrators of protest episodes as they emerged and (ii) elevated the importance of certain events in the eyes of their contemporaries. This paper will critically examine protest news coverage through a longitudinal study of an anti-government Chinese online media outlet Stand News to understand both the form (methods) and content (messages) anti-government media deployed in crafting narratives that resonate with the protest faction and Hong Kong at large. By reframing the analysis as the media’s “eventing” people’s experiences and exploring protesters’ subsequent weaponization of these events, this paper explains how 721 and 831 became focal points that redefined the 2019 Hong Kong protests and reformulated the city’s social fabric.

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