Hong Kong's Tortuous Democratization: A Comparative Analysis

By Ming Sing | Go to book overview

9

Hong Kong as a rare anomaly to modernization theory

Two research problems and the chronology of democratization in Hong Kong (1946-mid-2002)

This study sets out to answer two related research problems. First, the primacy of the “China factor” as the overriding constraint for Hong Kong’s democratic development has been well recognized. However, I have shown that the granting of moderate concessions by the Chinese Government for Hong Kong-wide support for democratization in 1990 when exposed to massive pressure implied that the Chinese Government’s position towards Hong Kong’s democratization was negotiable. This position depends upon the bargaining power of the pro-democratic forces. Therefore, the China factor has not entirely explained what happened in Hong Kong. We would have to look at a variety of internal factors and analyze how they have interacted with the China factor and produced the eventual outcome in relation to Hong Kong’s democratic development. I have thus explored what the other domestic and external constraints have been, which have delimited the bargaining power of pro-democratic forces and the subsequent scope of concessions from the Chinese Government throughout the period of 1984 to mid-2002.

Second, given that Hong Kong was a rare non oil-exporting anomaly to modernization theory, I endeavor to account for the anomaly with a historical-comparative perspective. In particular, according to many cross-national research studies, economic crises have been most favorable to the political opposition when pressing for democratic transition (Geddes, 1999:119; Haggard and Kaufman, 1995; Przeworski et al., 2000). Since late 1997, Hong Kong has been beset by the most serious economic recession in a generation. The stagnant support for democratic opposition after 1997 has only made the anomaly all the more puzzling.

Before solving the first problem, the trajectory of Hong Kong’s democratic struggles from 1982 to mid-2002 (Figure 9.1) can clarify the picture. It can be seen that the Chinese Government dictated the pace and extent of democratization after 1997 via the Basic Law. That said, other domestic

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