To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
The unrest in 2019 surprised many in the protesters’ militancy and their radical political consciouness. Previous literature on Hong Kong politics, society, and culture is not adequate in explaining this sudden and broad-based outburst of resistance. Hong Kong’s struggle for autonomy is an example of city’s struggle for freedom against centralizing nation states throughout the history of global capitalism. This book shows how the larger global political economic forces shape the political terrain of Hong Kong, as China’s offshore financial center at the edges of great powers. The analysis in the book will combine careful examination of large structural trends and recognition of the agency of different groups of Hong Kongers.
Chapter Six looks at how the design and implementation of the Hong Kong version of “One Country, Two Systems” and its discontents. The Basic Law guarantees some fundamental rights and freedoms for Hong Kong’s residents. It promises eventual universal suffrage of the government. But an alliance of Beijing and the local business elite prevented it from specifying the exact form and timetable for universal suffrage. It also contains a clause about the necessity of anti-subversion legislation that threatens preexisting rights and freedoms. These contradictions and ambiguities of the Basic Law sowed the seeds of political conflicts after 1997. These conflicts, coupled with the rising monopoly of Chinese capital in Hong Kong, stimulated Beijing’s urge to forfeit indirect rule and move to a radical assimilationist politics and direct rule. Beijing’s urge has been articulated systematically by a group of official scholars who advocated Beijing’s statist absorption of Hong Kong as a rehearsal of China’s power projection farther abroad. Beijing’s premature crackdown on Hong Kong’s autonomy unleashed escalating resistance that culminated in the great clash of 2019.
The chapter outlines the colorful history of power and resistance in pre-British Hong Kong. Many communities involved in this part of Hong Kong’s history continued to play a part in the colonial and post-colonial struggles. The chapter also discusses how the rise of Hong Kong as an industrial and financial center fomented different social groups that were mobilized in the struggle for Hong Kong’s future by competing political forces at the height of the Cold War. Most significant is the rise of a new middle class in tandem with the transformation of Hong Kong’s economy into a finance and service-centered one in the 1970s and the 1980s. This new middle class, combined with the plurality of grassroots social movements, charted a course for the locally rooted democratic movement that continued to grow after the sovereignty handover, constituting the backbone of the resistance in its quest of greater autonomy of Hong Kong under Beijing’s rule.
Chapter Three addresses Hong Kong’s economic function for China after 1997. Beijing’s challenge has been to perpetuate Hong Kong’s role as China’s offshore financial and trading center after the sovereignty handover. After 1997, the US-HK Policy Act allowed the US and the international community to continue treating Hong Kong as an independent trading entity separate from mainland China. Hong Kong maintained its separate membership in international organizations like the WTO, even after China joined those organizations. This continuous special status, conditional upon Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing under the One Country, Two Systems, made Hong Kong a conduit and stepping stone for Chinese capital and the elite who sought access to global capital or relocation to other parts of the world. It is also a key to Beijing’s plan to internationalize the Chinese currency Renminbi (RMB) without making RMB fully convertible in mainland China. Hong Kong’s unique offshore financial role for China led to increasing Chinese capital domination in Hong Kong.
Chapter Eight discusses how the rise of the radical wings of the democratic movement in tandem with the rise of localist, or even separatist, consciousness among the younger generation. For a long time, the ambiguous Hong Kong local identity had been no more than a cultural identity. Most social and opposition movements had been imbued with the Chinese nationalist discourse. But as a reaction to rising inter-class and inter-generational inequality driven by Chinese capital and Beijing’s tightening direct rule over Hong Kong, the consciousness that Hong Kong constitutes a political community separate from China’s emerged, and after about 2010, became mainstream among the younger generation of activists. Corresponding to this politicization of the Hong Kong identity was the germination of the demand for self-determination or even for Hong Kong independence within the democratic movement. The localist turn of political demands and increasingly militant protest underlined the escalating conflicts, starting from the anti-National Education curriculum mobilization in 2012, to the Umbrella Movement in 2014, and to the 2019 uprising.
We have seen in the previous chapters that Hong Kong has never been a tranquil place. Its settlers have never been submissive communities since the major settlements developed in the region centuries ago. Empires or nation-states attempting to absorb the territory, subjugate its communities, and assimilate its population always faced a dilemma between establishing full political control at the expense of its economic function and maintaining its utility by tolerating its autonomy.