The July 1 Protest Rally: Interpreting a Historic Event

By Lim, Adelyn | The China Journal, July 2006 | Go to article overview

The July 1 Protest Rally: Interpreting a Historic Event


Lim, Adelyn, The China Journal


The July 1 Protest Rally: Interpreting a Historic Event, edited by Joseph Y. S. Cheng. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press, 2005. xvi + 603 pp. US$34.00 (paperback).

On 1 July 2003, half a million people took to the streets of Hong Kong to demand democracy and to protest against the proposed Article 23 legislation on treason and sedition. The people of Hong Kong had been frustrated in part by economic insecurity: the Asian financial crisis provided the catalyst for the worst economic recession in thirty years, but it was the government that was blamed for declining international competitiveness and rising unemployment. Then Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's administration had also been marred by misguided housing policies which led to plummeting housing prices and deflation. Other problems of the Tung administration were exacerbated by the Principal Officials Accountability System (POAS), under which officials are appointed politically as cabinet ministers and are accountable to the Chief Executive for the success or failure of their respective policies. For example, the former secretary for Health, Welfare and Food got into trouble for mishandling the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which resulted in 300 deaths.

It was in the context of these developments that Tung introduced the Article 23 legislation. The top-down bureaucratic approach of this move reflected the insufficient involvement of legislators, political parties and the general public in the Hong Kong political system. Moreover, the proposed legislation was perceived as a threat to the political freedoms and civil rights which the people of Hong Kong have come to regard as fundamental to the "one country, two systems" framework. These various grievances provoked what became not only the largest anti-government demonstration in Hong Kong but also the largest prodemocracy protest in any part of China since the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989.

This edited volume brings together a team of scholars from Hong Kong to examine the issues surrounding the protest rally. The book is divided into three sections, one each on the political, economic and social aspects of the protest rally. The section on political aspects offers discussions of the governance crisis and its implications for Hong Kong identity, the imposition of China's value systems on Hong Kong, government implementation of and public opinion about POAS, the organizational failure of political parties, and sources of grievance among the middle class. The section on economic aspects discusses housing policy and its role in Hong Kong's economic decline, potential impacts of the Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, and employment issues and the momentum of the labor movement as Hong Kong undergoes economic restructuring. The articles in the section on social aspects review some of the Tung administration's most significant problems, including social welfare development and financing, healthcare provision and the proposed nature conservation policy, as well as the need for a participatory approach in urban planning, the paradigm shift in church-state relationships and the policy challenges of drug control. …

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