Politics and Government in Hong Kong: Crisis under Chinese Sovereignty

Politics and Government in Hong Kong: Crisis under Chinese Sovereignty

Politics and Government in Hong Kong: Crisis under Chinese Sovereignty

Politics and Government in Hong Kong: Crisis under Chinese Sovereignty

Synopsis

This book examines the government of Hong Kong since its handover to mainland China in 1997, focusing in particular on the anti-government mass protests and mobilisations in the years since 2003. It argues that Hong Kong has been poorly governed since transferring to Chinese rule, and that public frustration with governmental performance, including anti-subversion laws and slow democratisation, has resulted in the regular and massive protests, which have been rare in Hong Kong's past political development. The book then assesses different explanations for Hong Kong's government problems, including lack of social cohesion, incomplete economic restructuring, structural budgetary deficit, severe social inequality, intensifying cronyism and deficiencies within the political system itself. It goes on to discuss the implications of poor governance for legislative elections, civil society and constitutional development, and considers the prospects for the future. It argues that although in the short-term the Hong Kong government has managed to maintain its popular support ratings, in the longer run it is unlikely to be able to maintain its legitimacy in dealing with the fundamental challenges of government unless the current system is replaced by popular election of the government with appropriate institutional capacity and political powers.

Excerpt

Ming Sing

This book attempts to explore the causes of Hong Kong’s poor governance and to evaluate its prospects since the early 2000s. On July 1, 2003, over half a million Hong Kong people joined in a mass protest against the poor governance of the post-handover Hong Kong government, the likely legislation of draconian anti-subversion laws, and for speedier democratization. The scale of the July 1 rally was the largest seen since 1989 in Hong Kong, a city of 6.8 million people. Although the protests in 1989 exceeded the scale of the 2003 marches, the Tiananmen protesters demonstrated against abuse of human rights in China, rather than poor governance within Hong Kong.

The size of the participants, the huge diversity of the social groups involved, and the robust demands they voiced, powerfully underscored the pervasive public frustration with governmental performance. Groups involved in the protests included journalists, academics, workers, human rights, actors and artists, students, negative-equity homeowners, social welfare recipients, professionals, political parties, and Christian churches. The collective demand for more democracy and better governance is reminiscent of the explosion of civil society amid democratic transitions in various parts of the world.

Despite Beijing’s economic sweeteners, and the ensuing economic rebound in Hong Kong from the last quarter of 2003 onward, only 34 percent of Hong Kong people trusted their government in late February, 2004. The July 1, 2003 march, plus the over 200,000-strong pro-democracy rally on July 1, 2004, differed conspicuously with the tiny participation in pro-democratic rallies in the 1980s and 1990s, the largest of which had only 5,000 protesters in 1987. Of no less importance, the record-breaking voter turnout for local elections held on November 23, 2003, and the ensuing landslide victory of the pro-democratic camp over pro-China parties, upset Beijing because of the latter’s possible loss of control over Hong Kong.

Public sees poor governance in post-handover Hong Kong

Stability and prosperity demands good governance. In today’s interdependent world, where markets and political liberalization, instead of government planning, are often the key engines of economic and social changes, political . . .

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