Underground Front: The Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong, by Christine Loh. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010. xii + 360 pp. HK$275.00/ US$35.00 (hardcover).
Christine Loh' s highly readable book is a timely account of the role of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Hong Kong's political development. It is an open secret that the CCP has operated in Hong Kong since its establishment in the 1920s and from time to time has exerted extensive political influence in the territory; however, the Party has all along behaved like an underground organization, and its activities in Hong Kong have remained clandestine even after the handover of sovereignty in July 1997. The mysterious nature of CCP activities in Hong Kong means that very limited data and records are available for public information and academic research. Consequently, although the CCP is widely regarded as a heavyweight player in shaping political development in Hong Kong, this topic has received little academic exploration. From this perspective, Christine Loh' s book breaks important ground.
The book provides a comprehensive account of the CCP' s operation in Hong Kong. Chapter 1 introduces the overall structure of the Party and its organizational machinery for handling Hong Kong's affairs. Chapter 2 outlines the political tools used by the CCP in establishing its influence in Hong Kong, including its united front strategy and propaganda work. Chapters 1 and 2 offer a good background view of the operation of CCP in Hong Kong's contexts. Chapters 3 to 10 provide a historical review of the activities of CCP in Hong Kong by dividing it into several phrases, including the early history of the CCP from 1920s to the Chinese Civil War in 1948 (Chapters 3 and 4), the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 to the conflicts between the CCP and Kuomintang (KMT) in the 1950s (Chapter 5), the decade of the Cultural Revolution between 1966 to 1976 (Chapter 6), the Sino-British negotiations over the status of Hong Kong and the early transition period in the 1980s (Chapter 7 and 8), the post-Tiananmen period in the 1990s (Chapter 9) and finally the post-colonial period after 1997 (Chapter 10). The book also includes several appendices, presenting a survey of Hong Kong people's attitude towards the CCP and tracing the key targets of the Party's united front activities in the territory since the transition period.
As Loh points out in the preface, this book is basically "an outsider's view of the ultimate insider issue". Thus, those who look for insider stories and unpublished secret documents may be disappointed. …