Hong Kong in Transition: One Country, Two Systems

Hong Kong in Transition: One Country, Two Systems

Hong Kong in Transition: One Country, Two Systems

Hong Kong in Transition: One Country, Two Systems


Based on a substantial period under Chinese rule, "Hong Kong in Transition offers a perspective on the exceptional constitutional and administrative experiment that has been taking place in Hong Kong.


Robin Porter and Brian Hook

It is still close enough to the handover of 1997 for observers frequently to be asked whether Hong Kong has changed, and if so in which way and to what extent. Since it is axiomatic that all places change over time, even over relatively short periods, and even those whose chief characteristic seemed to be their very changelessness, such as the former imperial or so-called traditional China, it has become self-evident that the question is more often than not intended to be rhetorical rather than genuinely information-seeking.

Depending on the political persuasion of the one who puts it, the response anticipated is either an affirmation of 'no' or 'very little' change that conveys a positive signal, or an admission of 'some' or 'significant' change that conveys a negative signal. The former would convey an endorsement generally of the decisions taken and policies pursued by the administration under Mr C.H. Tung, in which the then Chief Secretary Anson Chan and Financial Secretary Donald Tsang played significant roles. The latter would not.

This book, following on from an earlier volume dealing with the years leading up to 1997, is designed for those seeking a balanced and informative response to the justifiable question as to the nature, source, scope and scale of change in Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty. Its publication is timely. It comes as the administration begins to address the important constitutional issues deliberately left unresolved in the Basic Law when it was adopted by the National People's Congress in 1990. Among them are whether the Chief Executive should be directly elected by universal suffrage in 2007, and whether there should be a majority of seats in the Legislature (LegCo) directly elected by Geographical Constituencies and a minority from Functional Constituencies in 2008.

Technical though these issues appear at first glance, they are, in practice, also extremely sensitive. Constitutional reform in Hong Kong was first seriously mooted in 1945 as the then post-war British Labour Government addressed the question of properly managing what, in effect, was the impending dissolution of the greatest empire in history. Those plans were shelved for fear of transposing the political struggle on the Chinese mainland to the hustings of Hong Kong. The triumph of the Communist Party of China in 1949 and the presence of the People's Liberation Army at the gate emphasized the fact that Hong Kong was borrowed space in borrowed time. Without the travails of democratic government it prospered and, as a unique colonial anachronism, it survived until 1997.

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