Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Josef Korbel School of International Studies

First Advisor

Erica Chenoweth

Second Advisor

Cullen Hendrix

Third Advisor

Julia Macdonald


International relations, Hong Kong


One of the unresolved puzzles in the civil resistance and contentious politics literatures relates to the fact that some movements that begin as reformist (seeking redress in a certain policy space) escalate to maximalist claims (demanding the ouster of a national leader or the entire regime) – a process I call “demand escalation.” For instance, in the summer of 2019, thousands took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest a proposed extradition bill that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party. However, even after Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam announced the formal withdrawal of the controversial bill, protests continued with some calling for greater democracy and others demanding Lam’s resignation. Existing literature has largely treated demands as fixed and focused on different methods of resistance to pursue predefined ends. In contrast, I show that demands can change as a result of the state-dissent interaction.

The core assumption of my argument is that demand escalation is not predetermined, and the central finding is that demand escalation is equifinal. I develop a dynamic theory of demand escalation, in which movement characteristics determine a campaign’s escalatory potential and government response determines whether and how the potential is triggered. I take a multi-method approach to test different aspects of the proposed theory – conducting a large-N analysis on a new dataset that catalogues both reformist and maximalist opposition campaigns globally, qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) on 78 reformist campaigns, as well as in-depth case studies on three mass movements from Hong Kong. The findings largely support the claim that campaigns can escalate demands both organically and strategically, and further illustrate how leader-led and leader-less campaigns are differently positioned to find resolution.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Sooyeon Kang


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

308 pgs


International relations