Colonialism and Welfare

Colonialism and Welfare

Social Policy and the British Imperial Legacy

Edited by James Midgley and David Piachaud

The British Empire covered three centuries, five continents and one-quarter of the world’s population. Its legacy continues, shaping the societies and welfare policies of much of the modern world. In this book, for the first time, this legacy is explored and analysed.

Chapter 6: Colonial Policy and Social Welfare: The Hong Kong Experience

Kwong-leung Tang

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Kwong-leung Tang An historically significant transfer of land from one country to another occurred on 1 July 1997, with the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China. At that time, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. The handover ended 156 years of British colonial rule. Economically, the World Bank put Hong Kong (and Singapore) on a par with other industrialized countries and classified it as ‘developed economy’. In the late 1970s, Deng Xiao-ping, the late leader of China, devised a strategy of ‘one country [Communist China], two systems [socialism and capitalism]’ for Hong Kong, hoping its thriving economy would continue after the changeover. Under the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement between the British government and the Chinese Communists, Hong Kong would retain much of its political latitude, except in issues relating to national security and foreign diplomacy. Most importantly, the current social and economic system in Hong Kong would remain unchanged. The preservation of the capitalist economy is greatly treasured by the government and businesses. As for social policy development, it was less definite. The form of social policy that the post-colonial city-state would take after 1997 and for the next 50 years was uncertain at the start. Like the colonial administration, the role of the political leader cannot be overemphasized. Hong Kong has witnessed the ‘election’ of two political leaders in this period: Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang. They had little in common, the former being a rich businessman with a...

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