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Does repression undermine opposition demands? The case of the Hong Kong National Security Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2021

Tetsuro Kobayashi*
City University of Hong Kong, M5088, 5/F, Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre, 18 Tat Hong Avenue, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong
Jaehyun Song
Kansai University, 2-1-1 Ryozenji-cho, Takatsuki, Osaka569-1095, Japan
Polly Chan
St Antony's College, University of Oxford, 62 Woodstock Road, OxfordOX2 6JF, UK
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


Does political repression extinguish public support for opposition demands? Protest emerges as a consequence of grievances and political preferences expressed as demands. Although the literature on the repression–dissent nexus has primarily focused on whether repression effectively deters dissenting behavior, a limitation is that researchers do not often distinguish between behavior and preferences. One possible implication is that although the observable protest behavior can be reduced by repression, underlying opposition demands may remain intact or even be strengthened. Hence, the question of why repression should alter public preferences remains theoretically under-investigated, because there is limited micro-level evidence that captures changes in opposition preferences induced by a repressive episode. We fielded comparable conjoint experiments before and after the enactment of the Hong Kong National Security Law in June 2020. Support for the demands was largely stable despite the sweeping powers of the law to curb protests, although some moderation of demands was observed. We outline avenues for future research on mechanisms and implications entailed by the effects of repression on preferences.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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