The Politics of China–Hong Kong Relations

The Politics of China–Hong Kong Relations

Living with Distant Masters

Peter W. Preston

In 1997 the British state relinquished control of Hong Kong and at this moment an established prosperous community was faced with reordering its sense of itself and its links with the wider world around the authority of Beijing. This book seeks to uncover the political logic of the process. Four issues are pursued: the manner of embedding a new political settlement, the business of governing the territory, the issue of democracy and the likely future of the extant form-of-life.

Chapter 4: Popular politics

Peter W. Preston

Subjects: asian studies, asian politics and policy, politics and public policy, asian politics


The population of Hong Kong has responded in various ways to the transfer of power to Beijing: business and administrative elites have transferred their loyalty to Beijing, long-established patriotic forces have celebrated the new arrangement, many small and medium sized business groups (SMEs) have acted pragmatically to build links on the mainland as have middle class professionals, whilst grass-roots Hong Kongers – typically excluded from any power or influence – have reacted in an ad hoc manner as events within the territory have unfolded. However, cutting against these disparate class-based reactions, there has also been widespread broadly based opposition to the present political arrangements. Such opposition has included mass demonstrations, protest groups, mini-riots and so on. In recent years, these popular calls for dual universal suffrage (thus elections for Hong Kong's Chief Executive by 2017 and for its legislature by 2020) have reflected a desire for a model of democracy free of management by Beijing. These expressions of popular opinion are of great interest not merely for scholarship but also for the political future of the territory because unless the local elite together with its backers in Beijing can determine a coherent route to the future and gather the support of the population the future for Hong Kong given its regional competitors looks somewhat uncertain.

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