2016 Mong Kok Unrest – Is it just an unreasonable riot or government responsibility?

2016 Mong Kok Unrest
by Hoi Tung Wong z5025558


Since the Umbrella Revolution(Occupy Movement) in 2014, the relationship between the public and the Hong Kong Police forced has become more and more strained due to many different controversies. In 8 February 2016, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) cracked down on unlicensed street hawkers during the Chinese New Year holidays. The Hong Kong Indigenous, a radical localist activist group formed after Occupy Movement, called for action online to shield the hawkers. Violent clashes broke out eventually between police and protesters. This incident is widely covered by media with different angles. The Hong Kong government has classified the incident as a “riot” and some media outlets. Since different media platform have different presumption of their readership, they report this incident with different names such as “Fishball Revolution”, “Mong Kong unrest” and “Mong Kong clash”. This article will focus on how different political journalisms evaluate the same social event differently and how they persuade their readers to believe what they construe.


This article will focus on the analysis and comparison of two contrasting English editorial. The first article is “Mong Kok unrest another wake-up call for Leung” by Shing-cheong Chung in the EJ insight on 24 February 2016, which its readerships are mostly the middle class people and intellectual. They assume that readers would have neutral stance toward the incident. The article is mainly a combination of evaluations and casual arguments. The second article from David Wong in China Daily on 22February 2016 is “Excuses for HK riot defy common sense” which involves more of evaluations and recommendations. China Daily’s readerships are mostly people from middle class and probably pro-China. They assume that the readers would mostly agree with the article’s stances of condemning the protesters in Mong Kok civil unrest.


The tittle, “Mong Kok unrest another wake-up call for Leung”, does not explicitly state the author’s stance. However, the using of ‘unrest’ to describe the incident reveals that the author does not hold a strong negative attitude to the incident. “Another wake-up call for Leung(The Chief Executive of Hong Kong)” reveals that the author thinks this incident could remind Leung of his deficiency. In the beginning of the article, Chung starts with a negative and disappointing tone using the word ‘despite’ and ‘insisted that there is no need’ to present his disappointment to Leung refusing call for an independent inquiry for such a serious social unrest. As the government has classified the incident as ‘riot’, it is also widely covered by many media platforms negatively. However, Chung’s article discusses the unrest with the angle focusing on the causes of this incident and how the incident reflects the complacency of the Hong Kong government and conflictual society.
Despite widespread calls for an independent inquiry into the underlying causes of the Mong Kok clashes, the Leung Chun-ying administration has insisted that there is no need for such a move.”



This article is a combination of casual claim and lots of evaluations. The second paragraph evaluates that the government’s actions after unrest. Chung uses some negative and emotive words such as ‘nosensical’ and ‘ridiculous’ to evaluate the government. However, the major claim of this paragraph is that the government’s complacency and total ignorance of the conflitual society are reflected but lack of justifications. The word ‘most alarming’ brings out the main idea of this article. Chungs tries to divert readers’ attentions from focusing on the violent actions as government presents. The word ‘mindset behind’ also leads readers to think more. He brings out that the unrest did not occur for no reason and those participants were not just simply ‘thugs’.


However, what is most alarming to me is not the nonsensical and ridiculous arguments that officials have presented, but the mindset behind it and what that tells us — the government’s complacency and total ignorance of the fact that public grievances and discontent in our society have already reached the tipping point and that an even more severe crisis could be in the making.”



Let’s see the primary claim of “Mong Kok unrest another wake-up call for Leung” first. It is a casual argument and it claims that the government refusing to open an inquiry for Mong Kog clashes shows that Leung’s government is complacent. Chung justifies that because the government has oversimplified the cause of the violence and it has categorically denied any connection between the clashes and the regime’s governance record.


“Such oversimplification of what happened that night and the simple-mindedness among our top officials could prove lethal in the end, for they fail to explain why basically the same bunch of young people who hadn’t thrown a single stone or set fire to anything during the Occupy Movement back in 2014 suddenly turned into violent and ruthless “rioters” this month.”



The other casual claim is that Mong Kok unrest is an alarm for Hong Kong. It is justified that because the same group of peaceful young protesters in Occupy Movement in 2014 have now become very radical and the government still oversimplifies the incident. The justification appeals to negative consequence. This argument shows to obvious warrant: there are lots of deep-rooted social problems making peaceful protesters become very angry and radical and simplifying the incident could bring serious consequence.


To make the argument more persuasive, the author also adds a paragraph as counter argument. It starts with blaming the protesters. He uses the words ‘violence’ and ‘was just another riot’ and describes the protesters as ‘some anti-social thugs’. He also mentions ‘there are no underlying social causes behind it’. However, at the end of this paragraph, he adds that it is just what the government thinks to tell readers that it is government’s views on the incident.


“The violence on the night of Feb. 8 was just another riot mounted by some anti-social thugs to pick a fight with the police and cause trouble, and there are no underlying social causes behind it whatsoever, the government thinks. All that needs to be done is to catch the criminals and put them behind bars, it feels.”



Chung also adds an evaluative rebuttal after the above counter argument. Referring to government’s views as what mentioned above, the government thinks the protests on the night of Feb 8 are ‘only’ ‘thugs’. Therefore, Chung evaluates that government’s views are ‘such a oversimplification’ and says that the simple-mindness of the Hong Kong top officials could cause a bad consequence. He has a rebuttal paragraph of the counter argument, however, lack of justification. He does not justify enough of why and how would the actions of Leung’s government causing bad consequences.


The article ends with evaluation statements with justification appeals to negative consequence. It claims that the chief executive’s action after the incident will only reinforce the worries and justifies that because the Leung’s government is completely ignoring the deep-rooted conflicts.


“The chief executive’s handling of the Mong Kok clashes will only reinforce the worries that his administration is completely ignoring the deep-rooted conflicts in our society.”



Wong starts the article with emotive language and a very negative tone. He uses the emotive words like “illusion”, “shattered” and “riot” which shows his strong stance of opposing the Mong Kong unrest and his denial attitude to peaceful image of Umbrella Revolution. This justification appeals to popular opinion.


“The illusion of a peaceful “Occupy” movement was shattered by the Mongkok riot recently. Many in Hong Kong were always strongly opposed to the “Occupy” movement for fears that it would not be peaceful.”



He justifies more about the reason he has this stance in the following paragraph. Wong uses many emotive and negative words to support this view believing “civil disobedience” is an excuse of protest in 2014 and Mong Kok riot is radical precedent that more radical protest would happen with using of the words like “pretext” and “pretense”. However, this operates evaluative presumption, a form of informal fallacy. The author assumes that the negative attitude toward the radical event with the pretext of “civil disobedience” will be necessarily applied without enough and logical justifications.


“Even if some of the occupiers genuinely intended to stage a peaceful protest, once a precedent is set for legitimatizing illegal and even criminal activities on the pretext of “civil disobedience” some people will further twist and distort this flawed logic. In the end, some of the participants will become radicalized and use the pretense of “civil disobedience” to mask the true violent nature of their actions.”



The primary claim of this article is the explanation of the support to the Mong Kok riot defies common sense. Wong justifies the reasons with three paragraphs. It shows his efforts in persuading the readers to believe the Mong Kong unrest is ridiculous. He says that the supporters keep trying to blame the police for riots is ridiculous.
“First, they tried to portray the incident where a police officer fired warning shots to protect his injured colleague lying on the ground from continued attacks by the mob as the only thing which happened that night. Ridiculous as this sounds; some people keep trying to blame the police for the riot.


Second, law enforcement actions against illegal hawkers have been turned into an excuse for the riot. There was even a cartoon depicting people wanting to eat fish balls but ending up having a police gun pointing at them.


Third, Western media started labeling the riot a “fish ball revolution” within hours. This was in an attempt to glorify it.”

Wong tries very to persuade readers opposing the riot. In one of this argument, he claims that everyone who loves Hong Kong should condemn the violence and work hard to help our community regain a sense of solidarity. He justifies that because residents in the special administrative region have been further polarized by the riot and the economy has suffered, which the justification appeals to negative consequences. The warrant of it is that the riot has adversely influenced Hong Kong. His using of the word “should” reveals that it is a type of recommendation argument.


“Residents in the special administrative region have been further polarized by the riot. And the economy, especially the tourism industry, has surely suffered another blow. Everyone who loves Hong Kong should condemn the violence and work hard to help our community regain a sense of solidarity.”

He ends the article with another evaluation. Wong claims that the thugs will operate riot again. He also justifies that because breaking the law often has few serious consequences and they could have a chance to become famous. This justification appeals to negative consequences and precedent. The warrant is that light penalty is not enough to deter people breaking law.


“The penalties handed out simply lacked any power to deter. From the point of view of these thugs, breaking the law often has few serious consequences. It provides them with an opportunity to become famous. So why not do so again?”



In Wong’s article, lots of negative and emotive terms are used to persuade people condemning the riot. Even the tittle shows his clear stances with the words such as “excuses”.


Compare the two article, Chung does not explicitly states his stance. However, blaming the government’s actions and downplays the violence reflects Chung’s stance of support the protesters. Wong does explicitly shows his stance by describing the incident with many negative and emotive words and use the term ‘riot’ to describe the incident. Both articles use many evaluative claims. Ching’s article focuses more on evaluating the consequence of the unrest and lack of the government’s action after the unrest. Wong’s article focuses more on evaluating the bad behaviour of the “rioters”. Chung’s article is relatively more objective with using less negative words. Wong’s article is relatively subjective with using many emotive words in the whole article but he is also more persuasive because his has more justifications in the article.