Indeed. I don't see any difference between this and the "Gilets Jaunes" in France or the 15M in Spain. Average people get tired of their lives and feel like there is nothing to lose. In this case China is the escape.
Well, while both HK protests and "Gilets Jaunes" were triggered by a proposed law, the parallel kind of stop there.
Yes, the youths are forefront b/c they feel like they have nothing to lose. On the other hand, the current protests doesn't really have to do with livelihood, but rather, the youth are fighting against what they perceived as a system that's totally stacked against them - i.e. lack of representation, crony capitalism (sounds familiar? Yep, tons of US youths feel the same), and to lesser extent, uncertainties in their future (the "50 years no change" pact is expiring in 28 years. By then the older generation are well, really old; but the younger generation? They would just be in 40s or 50s. Then there's also their children.
The counter-argument has always been how the youth "don't want to work for anything", "lazy", "basically want things to be their way or the highway" (Again, sounds familiar? B/c you can hear the same counter-argument in US about the millennials). But the truth is, right now the gov't wants "their way or the highway", think they know it all. The older generation, meanwhile, benefits from a booming economy of yesteryear (Again, sounds familiar? B/c it's often the argument that millennials in US are making against Boomer/Gen X), where the older generation can feed a family easily just by having 1 person (usually the "dad") working.
Oh, to make things even more parallel with US, you got the mainland immigrants being "scapegoated" at times, and you hear things like "lazy moochers" (public housing and welfare) (Sounds familiar? Yep, that's the very common argument against illegal immigration, and to lesser extent, legal immigration, in US), and that further increase the "hatred" of HK youth against mainland China.
In another word, it's first world problem, and a problems that many first world nations are facing - youths feeling excluded, ignored, and ultimately, has to look for a valve to release that pressure. Those are your most "violent" protesters anyway.
Now, not all protesters fit that profile 100%. I'm anything but a disaffected youth (I'm one of those "educated millennials" that work in tech sectors), and I don't even live in HK right now (Just b/c I was born there only mean so much), but simply know better than to trust the mainland gov't. People like me actually forms the majority of the opposition anyway. But as usual, the loudest person are being heard, and thus, the focus is all on the "violent" protesters but not the silent majority like me who's simply tired of the gov't being so inept and not wanting to solve problem, but rather, only throw more fuels into fires.
As to compare it to Beijing as other poster mentioned, IMO it is like apples to oranges. Hong Kong has been a wealthy, developed place for decades. So locals can compare. Like in many developed economies (Europe, Japan or the US), I am pretty sure educated millennials have a much tougher life than somebody with a degree now in their 50 or 60s (buying a flat, starting a family, getting a well paid job). So they can compare.
The only thing I would say about Beijing, or mainland China in general, is that their youths has the mindset of people in 50s/60s of a first world country, simply b/c they're born into a place that has an economy that's growing crazily (the current slowdown aside), where they don't have to work 3x as hard but are call "not tough enough", "lazy" by the older generation. To nobody's surprise, the mainland youths (at least the majority of them) don't exactly even understand why HK youths are protesting, and feels like all the HK youths are doing right now is "destroying everything in HK", how the HK youths were "born in a rich place but want to just ruin it all" (Of course, remember mainland China is also the same place where people think "Money can buy everything"...including the laws), etc.