HONG KONG—Now that the pro-democracy protest encampment in the center of Asia’s financial capital has been cleared (minus, perhaps, some stray glitter), many are wondering whether the 75 days of demonstrations, which highlighted the divide between Hong Kong and mainland China, actually mattered much in the end.

The protesters, after all, didn’t make any discernible progress towards their primary goals—securing for Hong Kongers the right to choose their own chief executive candidates, and ousting the city’s unloved current chief, CY Leung. Despite the passionate participation, the international attention, and outpouring of creativity and ingenuity, the protest site at Admiralty looks this morning very much as it did the morning of Sep. 26, the day students kicked off the demonstrations. The protesters themselves have largely returned to work or school.

And yet, there are many ways that the protests have irrefutably changed Hong Kong. After over two and a half…

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