The Political Future of Hong Kong: Democracy within Communist China

Article excerpt

The Political Future of Hong Kong: Democracy within Communist China, by Kit Poon. London; New York: Routledge, 2008. xxii + 177 pp. £85.00 (hardcover).

Although this book is entitled The Political Future of Hong Kong, it focuses mainly on the development of democratic accountability from the British colonial period to the present Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). The book is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 discusses briefly how the British introduced a more accountable political system. Chapter 2 examines how the People's Republic of China (PRC) responded to the British-initiated democratic reforms through an emphasis on the need for local patriots to rule the HKSAR and a strategic utilization of the mini-constitution, the Basic Law, to reach political compromises with the British over political reform. Chapter 3 delineates the role of the Chief Executive and his office in mediating between the demands of the Hong Kong people and the wishes of the central government in Beijing. The Chief Executive and his office have become the central mechanism for political dialogue, negotiation and discussion. Kit Poon argues that the Basic Law is a legal document with ambiguities that provide room for political bargaining and consensus among competing actors. Chapter 4 charts the contention between the democrats on the one hand and the central government in Beijing on the other over political reform in Hong Kong. It contains an updated section on the emergence of the new pro-democracy political party, the Civic Party, and its dilemmas as well as its constraints. The chapter argues that Beijing should adapt to the pluralistic politics of Hong Kong by encouraging and supporting its agents and followers to compete with the democrats in local elections. In so doing, Beijing would confirm the legitimate operation of political parties in Hong Kong. Chapter 5 delineates a number of scenarios for Hong Kong's democratic development within the orbit of Communist China: the Commonwealth model, the Scotland model, the "prior consent" model, and the "ex post response" model. …