LIHKG and Telegram: The software powering protests in Hong Kong

Business & Technology

Maciej Cegłowski is the proprietor of Pinboard, a website bookmarking service, and also one of the more perspicacious commenters on contemporary politics. He has spent the last few months in Hong Kong, and has compiled his observations on technology use in the Hong Kong protests. Here’s a taste:

It’s important to stress that Hong Kong protesters are young people improvising under stressful conditions. They are not ubernerds as they have been portrayed in some Western media accounts, but brave, scared, stressed out ordinary people in the hundreds of thousands who are defying China. Painting them as uniquely competent does them a disservice and discounts their very real courage.

Because leaders proved a vulnerable point in 2014, the protesters in 2019 have adopted a decentralized approach to organizing. There is no formal leadership, and the whole thing is held together by social media and personal ties. The result is a kind of “twitch plays protest” process of decision-making (or for those of you too old to get that, you can think of it as leadership by Ouiji board).

The protesters make heavy use of two software tools: LIHKG (Li-dan), a Reddit-like message board, and the messaging app Telegram.

Other news from the restive Special Administrative Region: 

“How China unleashed Twitter trolls to discredit Hong Kong’s protesters” is the title of a New York Times piece (porous paywall) on Beijing’s sketchy social media campaigns.

NPR also has a new piece of analysis on how China used Twitter to disrupt Hong Kong protests, but efforts began years earlier.

“Internet users in China are calling for a boycott of French bank BNP Paribas after discovering that one of its employees in Hong Kong apparently supports the city’s anti-government protesters, and noticing that the company refers to Hong Kong and Taiwan as ‘independent countries’ on its website,” says the South China Morning Post.

“Only about one-fifth of the 458 district councillors invited to meet Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é) on Wednesday night showed up as even pro-establishment allies snubbed her while participants urged her to go down to the ground and listen to ordinary Hongkongers,” reports the South China Morning Post.