Hong Kong's Tortuous Democratization: A Comparative Analysis

By Ming Sing | Go to book overview
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Britain’s first retreat from rapid democratization and formation of the first pro-democratic alliance

Background and formative phase of the pro-democracy movement alliance (mid-1982-late 1986)

In the last chapter, I showed how six long-term macro-environmental conditions constrained top-down and bottom-up democratization between 1946 and 1984. From 1982 and 1987 onwards, Hong Kong was an increasing anomaly to modernization theory as it became a “higher-middle-income” place and a “high-income economy” respectively. Where a structural approach, such as modernization theory, fails to explain the anomaly completely, a synthetic perspective stressing bargaining as well as constraints and opportunities produced in the political process is useful. In this chapter, it will discuss how external and internal constraints, which inhibit Hong Kong’s democratization and explain the anomaly, made themselves apparent during the formation of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. I will show how the Chinese Government began to thwart Hong Kong’s democratic development in the early 1980s. Despite the Chinese Government’s opposition to democratization, however, it did have some positive effect on the latter’s democratization through triggering the formation of the largest pro-democracy alliance since 1945 in Hong Kong. The leaders of the alliance also later became the leaders of the largest pro-democracy party in Hong Kong, i.e., the Democratic Party.

In addition, as well as the Chinese Government, this chapter will reveal the presence of two domestic constraints, i.e., the fragile public support for the rapid democratic transition of Hong Kong and the rise of the anti-democracy capitalist alliance formed mainly by local capitalists. The reasons for opposition to speedy democratization in Hong Kong by both the Chinese Government and the capitalist alliance will also be discussed.

After that there will be a discussion of the dual interests and calculations of China about Hong Kong that led to the decision to take it back in 1997. This decision triggered an externally induced crisis for Hong Kong. After a series of Sino-British negotiations, a Joint Declaration on Hong Kong’s future was drawn up, which presented an apparent political opportunity for democratization. The Joint Declaration, signed in 1984,


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