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OCCASIONAL PAPER SERIES In September 2017, the first of the series of occasional papers of the Asian Research Center for International Development (ARCID), School of Social Innovation, Mae Fah Luang University, was produced. The main purpose of the series is to provide a channel for the distribution of preliminary research results of the academic and scholarly community. The occasional papers could cover a variety of fields in social sciences. The main regions of emphasis are basically East Asia (China, Japan and Korea) and ASEAN. This series should be of interest to policy makers, scholars, students and the general public.

‘If we burn, you burn with us’: China’s 2019 Political Crisis in Hong Kong


© All Rights Reserved Author: John P. Burns

ISBN: 978-616-470-027-7 First published in 2019 by ASIAN RESEARCH CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (ARCID) School of Social Innovation, Mae Fah Luang University 333 Moo1, Thasud, Muang, Chiang Rai 57100, Thailand Tel : +66 5391 7137 Email : arcid.social-innovation.school@mfu.ac.th, Website : http://social-innovation.mfu.ac.th/arcid.php, Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/ARCIDTHAILAND/

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About the Author: John P. Burns is Emeritus Professor, the University of Hong Kong. He is the former Chair Professor of Politics and Public Administration and former Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences (2011-2017) at HKU. He teaches courses and does research on comparative politics and public administration, specializing in China including Hong Kong. His research interests focus on public sector human resource management, civil service reform, party-state relations, and public sector reform. His most recent book is Government Capacity and the Hong Kong Civil Service (2004 and 2010).


‘If we burn, you burn with us’: China’s 2019 Political Crisis in Hong Kong John P. Burns 1. Introduction In the summer of 2019 Hong Kong faced its worst governance crisis since 1967. Then Cultural Revolution-inspired rioters in the colony challenged directly British colonial authority. The rioters wanted an end to colonialism. Eventually the government in Beijing called them off, but only after they seriously challenged the colonial government, and the Hong Kong police. In 1967 the community rallied to the side of the colonial government. The UK government mobilized soldiers to support the police. When the dust settled, the colonial government conducted an inquiry into colonial governance that resulted in significant reforms (Cheung 2009). Fast forward 52 years later. Protesters, some violent, challenged the authority of the Hong Kong government over a botched extradition bill. The government, now a special administrative region of China, mobilized the police to put down almost daily protests, that stretched over many months. In 2019 the community joined the protesters and denounced the police and their sometime allies, triad gangsters, for excessive violence. So far, local authorities, supported by the central government, have refused most demands of the protesters, who have numbered hundreds of thousands. Protesters sought withdrawal of the bill, to hold the government to account for instigating the chaos, and, fundamental political reform. The community, especially the young, tired of a political system that disenfranchised them. Civil society exploded. The central government denounced the violence, accusing foreign governments of leading the protests. Beijing also threatened martial law and to deploy soldiers from the Mainland to quell the protests. Such a move would end the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement, under which China has governed Hong Kong since 1997. The contemporary relationship between the Mainland and Hong Kong is deep and complex. It consists of cultural and historical affinity that includes integration, collaboration, and cooperation, on one hand, and antagonism and conflict, on the other. Security, infrastructure, investment, and professional recognition are at the core of the integration story. It is a powerful narrative but is not the focus of this paper. Rather this paper focuses on the conflict between the Mainland and Hong Kong as they work through the political experiment of ‘ one country, two systems’ to manage their post-1997 affairs. I argue that the current discontent is the product of Hong Kong’ s colonial legacy. Hong Kong 1

transitioned to a local government of China without a revolution, forgoing decolonialization. Rather the authorities devised a ‘through train’ that kept intact Hong Kong’ s colonial economy, education system, civil service, and political institutions. Hong Kong is living with the consequences of this decision today. Protesters reject a future Hong Kong stripped of its ‘ high degree of autonomy’ and many Western liberal political rights. It is this future, they protest, that awaits Hong Kong in 2047 when the current arrangements for Hong Kong expire. Since 1997, locked into unreformed, colonial institutions, many see street protest as the only way out. 2. Voice and public policy Since 1997 Hong Kongers have taken to the streets in anti-government protests in huge numbers on at least four occasions. First, in 2003 the Hong Kong government attempted to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law, which calls for Hong Kong to enact explicit laws against treason, succession, sedition, and subversion against the central government, and theft of state secrets (Basic Law, 1992). The law would prohibit foreign political bodies operating in Hong Kong, or Hong Kong political organizations from establishing ties with foreign political organizations. Professionals in Hong Kong, especially lawyers, protested. The government formally consulted the public, using the colonial practice where the purpose of consultation is to sell the policy, not to accommodate public views. The government pushed the bill forcefully until on July 1, 2003, an estimated 500,000 people took to the streets in protest, the largest protest since 1997. The government lost support in Executive Council, could not win in Legislative Council, and dropped it, but did not formally withdraw it (Ma 2007, 210-6). As of writing, Hong Kong has still not enacted Article 23. Yet, using the common law, the government has banned a political party, imprisoned its leader, and disqualified candidates for Legislative Council elections, all who allegedly advocated independence for Hong Kong. Second, in 2012 the government attempted to introduce ‘national and moral education’ in schools. The government claimed curriculum would deepen students understanding of contemporary China. Parents, teachers, and students criticized the policy for ‘brainwashing’ students. The government commissioned sample textbooks that were one-sided, incomplete accounts of contemporary Chinese history. Revealing them galvanized protesters. After two months of large-scale protests, the government withdrew the policy (Ho, 2013). Third, the government attempted to introduce political reform to realize ‘universal suffrage’ as laid down in the Basic Law, from 2007-8. The central government, while approving universal suffrage, stipulated that it must allow the Chinese Communist Party to vet candidates before they could 2

stand for election. The Chinese Communist Party would not allow ‘enemies’ of China to govern Hong Kong. Critics demanded open or ‘public’ nominations, not controlled by the party. In 2014 the central government issued two documents outlining the conditions under which universal suffrage could be implemented, that included party vetting. Protesters demonstrated and eventually ‘occupied central for love and peace’ in a 79day operation. It shut down the area of Hong Kong Island around government headquarters and Admiralty Mass Transit Railway station, a very busy junction. To divide the public, the government permitted the occupation to drag on. The government persisted with its legislative proposal on universal suffrage which conformed to the central government requirement. Legislative Council eventually defeated it. Bailiffs, and the police removed protesters from the streets. The scale of the protests was massive and exposed serious divisions in the community. ‘We’ll be back!’ the protesters screamed as they were removed, with many arrests. The government prosecuted the leaders of Occupy, whom courts convicted and jailed (Cai, 2016). Nonetheless, the government’s policy on universal suffrage was defeated, and the central government replaced the Chief Executive at the time, CY Leung, at the end of his only term. Finally, in 2019 the government drafted and attempted to force through the Legislative Council an extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong to extradite fugitives to the Mainland, Taiwan, and Macau. The bill sparked widespread opposition, including from among traditional government supporters. The business community, professionals, and many others opposed the measure. Viewing the bill as a technical amendment, and confident of prevailing, the government fought on. From June 9, 2019 protesters in hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the bill repeatedly. After a particularly violent demonstration on June 12, the Chief Executive declared the bill ‘dead’, agreeing not to continue to push it during the legislative term. Furious that the bill had not been formally withdrawn and for alleged police brutality, activists continued to organize massive protests (e.g., 16 June, 1 July, 18 August). The Hong Kong government stayed silent. Protesters became increasingly violent in a direct challenge to authority. The central government threatened to send in the People’s Liberation Army. On September 2, the government ‘withdrew’ the bill, one of the protesters five demands. Protests continued with increasing violence, aimed at Mainland organizations and businesses in Hong Kong, the Chinese Communist Party, Hong Kong government buildings, and the Mass Transit Railway Corp (accused of colluding with the police). In the face of mounting violence, on October 4 the government invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, a colonial era tool, that makes the Chief Executive an unchecked dictator. The government used the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to proclaim an anti-face mask law. Rather than dealing with the political issues, 3

the government chose stepped-up repression. Further infuriated, tens of thousands took to the streets in further violent attacks. As of writing, police have shot two protesters. No one has died. The community is caught in a deadlock, with no apparent way forward. Still, the government has formally withdrawn the bill, but only in response to violent protest. Since 1997, the inadequacies of Hong Kong’s colonial institutions have become increasingly apparent. They have left Hong Kongers with no way out, except for street protest that has become more frequent, mobilizing larger and larger sections of the community, and much more violent. Failure to address these institutional failures will only result in more, increasingly violent protests. I turn now to a discussion of the constitutional basis of Hong Kong’s relationship to the Mainland, and its governance. 3. The constitution Hong Kong is governed by the Basic Law, drafted in the early 1980s and implemented on July 1, 1997. Early 1980s China was a poor rural society, disconnected from the world, and not the economic and geopolitical juggernaut the country has become. Hong Kong’s business elite and middle class in the early 1980s were swaggeringly successful and rich. They played an important role in the Chinese Communist Party’s plans to develop the Mainland. Key parts of the Basic Law are relevant to understanding the causes of discontent in Hong Kong. Central-local relations In the Basic Law, the central government offers Hong Kong a ‘high degree of autonomy’ as a part of China (Art 2). The central government is responsible for foreign affairs and defense, while other matters are left to the local government in Hong Kong (Art 13, 14). So too, Hong Kong courts have no jurisdiction over ‘acts of state such as foreign affairs and defense’ (Art 19). The central authorities also appoint the Chief Executive (Art 15). As the Annexes to the Basic Law make clear, central authorities have final say on political/constitutional reform in Hong Kong, and on interpreting and amending the Basic Law (Art 17). Under certain conditions the People’s Liberation Army, which is stationed in Hong Kong, may be deployed to ‘maintain public order’. If local authorities are faced with ‘turmoil’ that endangers national unity and security, beyond their capacity to control (Art 13, 14, 18), the central government may apply national laws in Hong Kong. This would allow the central government to completely take over Hong Kong’s institutions. 4

Soon after 1997, Mainlanders who had children in Hong Kong began demanding the right of abode there, as apparently the Basic Law allowed. Court challenges resulted, and only central government intervention resolved the issue. In the aftermath, lawyers and judges in Hong Kong argued that Hong Kong’s constitution allows judges to review and invalidate decisions of the executive and legislature. That is, Hong Kong’s political system is separation of powers, where each branch of government is coequal (Ghai, 1997). The central government denies this, but judicial reviews are common in Hong Kong. The Basic Law allows the Chief Executive to dissolve the legislature (Art 50, 70), and the legislature to force the resignation or removal of the Chief Executive (Art 52, 73(9)). These are characteristics of separation of powers systems. Rights and responsibilities The Basic Law lays out human and civil rights that the people of Hong Kong enjoy. These include equality before the law, rights to vote and stand for election, and freedom of speech, press, publication, association, assembly, procession, demonstration, to form and join trade unions, to strike (Arts 2627), religion (Art 32) and to privacy (Art 30) and many more. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China also includes many of the same rights. In 1990-91, during the late colonial period, the Hong Kong government enacted the Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap 383) which transposed the universalist International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights into Hong Kong law. Conflicting interpretations of these rights and responsibilities emerged soon after 1997. The central government defines the rights narrowly, favoring the state in conflicts of rights between the state and the individual. Authorities in Hong Kong have generally relied on common law understandings of these rights in a rule of law system, where there is no presumption in favor of the state. Participation and accountability According to the Basic Law, citizens may vote for Legislative Council members, and 1,200 Hong Kongers may vote for the Chief Executive (Art 15). The Basic Law commits to introducing universal suffrage for the election of both the Chief Executive and Legislative Council members at some ‘appropriate’ time in the future (Art 45; Annex II). The Chief Executive is accountable both to the central government and to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Art 43). Especially since 2002 when a new governance system was introduced (see below) Hong Kongers have tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to hold the Chief Executive and her government to account. The central government has 5

pushed some Chief Executives out of office (CH Tung and CY Leung), without admitting that this was to make them responsible for policy or other blunders. Continuity The Basic Law required Hong Kong’s unreformed colonial institutions (economy, education, civil service, and political system) to transition 1997 more or less unchanged. Twenty-four articles in the Basic Law codify the ‘through train’ in law. On July 1, 1997, apart from the Chief Executive and Secretary for Justice, the government appointed the same colonial officials to similar positions in the new government. Indeed, this is a major source of Hong Kong’s current discontent. Hong Kong’s business elite and the Chinese government were happy with the arrangement, because it provided continuity and stability. Moreover, in the official view in Beijing, Hong Kong ceased being a colony in 1972 when China successfully removed Hong Kong from the UN committee on decolonialization, a move the UK did not oppose (Tsang 2003). Modest post1997 reforms have not altered the colonial character of Hong Kong’s institutions to this day. Chinese Communist Party The Basic Law is silent on the role of the Chinese Communist Party in the governance of Hong Kong. Yet, the Chinese Communist Party via its Central Coordination Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs in Beijing, chaired by Politburo Standing Committee Member Han Zheng; the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the Liaison Office in Hong Kong (the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party branch in Hong Kong) play a major role in setting and implementing the central government’s policy on Hong Kong. The Chinese Communist Party, an ‘underground party’ in Hong Kong (Loh, 2010) rules through proxies, the most significant of which is the Chief Executive. The party assumed that by taking over control of the titular position in the colony, it could rule Hong Kong effectively. Hong Kong, the party perceived, respected hierarchy, law and order, and was mostly ‘apolitical’. This last perception, that Hong Kong is mostly apolitical, has proven to be hugely mistaken. 4. The colonial legacy Although sovereignty over Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, Hong Kong institutions in many respects continue to exhibit colonial characteristics. They are colonial in the sense that they were established by foreigners through coercion; they perpetuate power relationships that benefitted foreigners (British merchants), benefits that the retreating colonial authority 6

transferred to Hong Kong’s local business elite (the tycoons); they are run in a style that is managerial, not political; and these relationships and institutions are codified in Hong Kong’s Basic Law. The Chinese Communist Party’s bargain with Hong Kong’s business elite on the takeover of Hong Kong also ensured that the state in Hong Kong remains weak, which has served the interest of Hong Kong’s business elite, thus far. That is, the government governs with the consent of Hong Kong’s tycoons. In 1997 no revolution overthrew Hong Kong’s elite. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region experienced no decolonialization. Instead all institutions and most colonial personnel simply boarded ‘the through train’ sliding easily from one era to the next. Hong Kong’s unreformed colonial-era institutions (economy, education, civil service, political) have continued in force. As they left, the British transferred their benefits to a small number of property tycoons, who benefited from government land policies and a colonial-era public finance system. This system, with some exceptions (health and education?) ignores the needs and expectations of the people. The economy The structure of the economy is colonial in the sense that foreigners imposed it by force on Hong Kong to benefits to a narrow business elite. The Basic Law codifies these arrangements. First, colonial authorities, loath initially to provide any public services (eventually they established a public health system for their own protection, then education, and finally public housing in the 1950s). The colonial government taxed the business community sparingly (Littlewood, 2010). In the late colonial era salaries and business taxes were kept at a flat 15-17%, and only a fraction of the employed population paid tax at all. To finance the services, the colonial government relied on land sales and stamp duty to meet the shortfall. High land (and housing) prices enabled balanced budgets and surpluses. The government does not tax inheritance and capital gains. When in 2003 the government attempted to raise revenue through a new sales tax (or a value added tax), business protested, and government dropped the proposal (SCMP 23/9/2019). Sky high property prices also enrich Hong Kong’s property tycoons. Second, the colonial government favored a narrow business elite, the property tycoons. The government empowered oligopoly that favored a small number of families that control property development, utilities, public bus services, and food retail. ‘The rise to power of these economic lords owes a lot to a government that adopts a laissez-faire approach when it so suits them and at the same time actively protects their interests.’ (Poon,


2011 p. 44). In 2010 six families, all property tycoons, held assets worth 42% of Hong Kong’s gross domestic product. In 2018, Hong Kong’s 93 USD billionaires held assets worth 86.6% of Hong Kong’s GDP (Wealth-X’s Billionaire Census 2018, in SCMP Sep 23, 2019). If we use Wealth-X’s global data, 13.3% of billionaires inherited their wealth, while 30.6% sourced their wealth from a combination of inheritance and their own efforts (Wealth-X’s Billionaire Census 2018, p. 19). The number of Hong Kong’s inherited wealth billionaires is undoubted higher than the global data because Hong Kong imposes no tax on inheritance. Third, since 1997 inequality and poverty have increased substantially (Goodstadt, 2013). Although Hong Kong’s per capita income was US$64,216 (ppp) in 2018, ahead of the US, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Australia, inequality has galloped ahead. From 1996 to 2016 the Gini coefficient has gone from 0.432 to 0.507. By 2018 the starting median salary for a university graduate was lower than it was 30 years ago, and the median salary for those with a university qualification fell 10.4% during the decade from 2007-17 (SCMP 19/12/2019). That is, those born in the 1990s are significantly worse off than older generations. This speaks to declining opportunity in Hong Kong. Housing for most in Hong Kong is entirely beyond most people’s reach. While household incomes rose by 61%, housing prices rose by 127% from 2010 (Wong; Wall Street Journal 8 Aug 2019). The government from 2007-12, rather than building more public housing for low-income groups, stopped building. Currently, more than 1.37 million of Hong Kong’s 7.3 million population live below the poverty line, living on as little as US$500 a month, according to government data. (SCMP 2 Sept 2019). Hong Kong’s small unaffordable flats are an additional tax on ordinary people, who pay the price for Hong Kong’s property-based public finance system. As the Mainland offered cheap land and labor in the 1980s and 1990s, manufacturing moved from Hong Kong across the border to the Mainland. The structure of Hong Kong’s economy changed, from manufacturing to financial services and property. Since 1997 the Hong Kong government has offered no credible strategy for developing the economy, while regional competitors have focused on computer chip manufacturing, bio-medical engineering, medical tourism, and innovation. Hong Kong’s economy has stagnated. Hong Kong’s contribution to the Mainland economy has contracted from 18.4% in 1997, much larger than the contribution of Shenzhen or Guangzhou, to 2.8% in 2015, and is further shrinking (Wong; Financial Times 10/08/2019). Hong Kong is more marginalized and its contribution to the Mainland economy is shrinking year by year. In spite of Hong Kong losing ground, Mainland tycoons park assets there,


because of Hong Kong’s separate legal and economic systems. In 2018, according to an Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission survey, Hong Kong held US$3.1 trillion in assets under the management of Hong Kong financial firms, of which US$553 billion was held in trusts. Of these Hong Kong and Mainland-based individuals and entities owned US$332 billion, or 56% (Washington Post, Aug 21, 2019). This argues against the central government rushing to take over Hong Kong in the current crisis. Education The colonial government at least initially did not provide education in Hong Kong at all. Rather, the government assumed that expatriate children would seek education in the UK. Gradually, the colonial government recognized that Hong Kong’s economy needed trade schools and technical colleges. Non-government organizations, especially churches, stepped in to fill the gap. Currently only seven percent of schools are run by the state, while nongovernment organizations, mostly religious organizations, manage the rest. The colonial government maintained tight control of curriculum and registration of teachers to ensure that politics from the Mainland did not ‘infect’ Hong Kong (Morris, 2010). A legacy of this is that schools do not teach Chinese history as a compulsory subject, nor do they teach ‘national and moral education’ or civics/patriotism. These are both arguably consequences of Hong Kong’s colonial education system that keeps schools in the hands of churches and other NGOs and allows them considerable autonomy. The post-1997 government introduced more Chinese language education (mother tongue teaching) to improve learning for the vast bulk of students by weaning schools from their dependence on English. Parents and schools opposed the move (English is necessary for future careers, they reasoned). The government relented and returned to the colonial practice of giving most schools the autonomy to choose the language of instruction, monitored by public exams. In 2012 the government sought to introduce ‘national and moral education’, an initiative that also failed after massive protest. Critics found sample textbooks, that appeared to be Chinese Communist Party propaganda. ‘Brainwashing’ the critics said. Rather the schools teach a selectively liberal curriculum that emphasizes Western values, many rights, perhaps less emphasis on responsibilities and definitely not patriotic education. Government introduced liberal studies in 1992, that became a required subject in 1997, and part of the Diploma of Secondary Education from 2012. In liberal studies students are exposed to a critical appraisal of current events. Critics blame liberal studies for stoking protest, although both


protesters and defenders of government of a certain age studied the curriculum. There is no evidence to support the critics’ claim. The government funds the schools but does not require education that would produce students that more identify with the Mainland. Civil service The central government has drawn heavily on Hong Kong’s elite civil servants, the Administrative Officers, to provide political leadership for the territory (Burns, 2004). This move has been a disaster for Hong Kong. Recruited and trained to manage a complex bureaucracy, Hong Kong’s Administrative Officers are not up to the job of providing political leadership. It was they who led Hong Kong into the extradition bill crisis completely oblivious of what they had done. Consider the civil service. The government recruits the civil service from among those with the right of abode in Hong Kong and trains them to manage Hong Kong, a colonial practice that continues to this day. Civil service training does not prioritize political skills. Yet, post-1997, retired civil servants have played a key role in leading the Hong Kong government. Both former Chief Executive D. Tsang and current Chief Executive C. Lam were retired civil servants as were most of their political appointees. As a result of reforms introduced in 20021, especially since 2017, most government political appointees (ministers) are retired civil servants and it is likely that many bring with them a trusteekind of mindset. The government recruits civil servants from among those educated in elite, mainly church-run schools. They are the best performers in the written and oral selection tests. Selected during the colonial era, current senior civil servants likely hold that they are guardians, or trustees of the public interest, rather than agents of the people (Burns and Li, 2015). More recent recruits to the civil service may hold a different view. I speculate that the civil service now is fractured by rank and function, with more junior civil servants adopting more principal-agent-type values, which emphasize civil servants as agents of the public. Many civil servants articulated this view in antiextradition bill petitions and in an unprecedented anti-extradition bill demonstration of 40,000 civil servants held on August 2, 2019. Civil servants in functions such as social work also appear to be more drawn to protest, as Principal Official Accountability System (POAS) was renamed Political Appointment System in 2006. There are approximately 16 politically appointed Policy Secretaries, heading each policy bureau, and, since 2007, politically appointed Under Secretaries (10 currently) and Political Assistants (8 currently). The number of political appointees numbers about 34 currently, 35 if you include the Chief Executive. https://www.info.gov.Hong Kong/gia/general/201708/01/P2017080100675.html 1


opposed to those in the security apparatus. Political institutions Hong Kong’s current colonial political institutions do not require that local government be accountable to the people of Hong Kong. Moreover, they exclude most Hong Kongers from participating in the selection of the leader and continue the practice of privileging the business elite. Although required to be accountable to the central government and the local populace, the Hong Kong government has ignored this requirement locally. Colonial governments traditionally were not accountable to the local populace over which they ruled. In 2003, soon after the introduction of the Principal Official Accountability System reforms mentioned above, political appointees resigned from their offices after committing policy blunders, especially related to the failed Article 23 policy. Since then, no policy secretary2 has left office to take responsibility for policy failures. In the anti-extradition bill case, the failure of any political appointees to resign, is particularly noteworthy. The community has made many calls for resignations, which the government ignored. Hong Kong’s system of accountability allows the government to decide when and under what terms it will be held accountable locally. This amounts to the colonial practice of ignoring the local population. Most people in Hong Kong participate neither in the selection of Hong Kong’s leader (nor did they during the colonial era) nor in the making of public policy. First, the central government appoints the Chief Executive, in a process managed and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Although the government convenes a 1200-member ‘Election Committee’ to vote for candidates, identified by the Chinese Communist Party, the party manages and controls the entire process including for the most part which Hong Kong elites may join the Committee. Election Committee members in the education and social welfare sectors, elected by all members of their professions, tend to vote for opposition Committee members. Government supporters on the Committee, who come from Hong Kong’s business and professional elite via Hong Kong’s functional constituency system are always in the majority. This process is laid down in the Basic Law. The Chinese Communist Party through China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee has ruled that if universal suffrage is implemented in Hong Kong, In 2007 the permanent secretary for education (a civil servant) resigned to take responsibility for interfering in the academic freedom of colleagues in the Hong Kong Institute of Education. 2


it may exist only if the Chinese Communist Party controls the Chief Executive candidate nomination process. This determination sparked protest and opposition in 2014 (NPC Standing Committee, 2014; State Council White Paper, 2014). Legislative Council failed to endorse the government’s proposal, based on the National People’s Congress ruling. The current unreformed arrangements for selecting the Chief Executive, then, disenfranchise virtually the entire community. Since 2003 the appointed Chief Executive serves with his/her 34 or so political appointees as the government. In the post-1997 era, the central government has appointed tycoons and professionals to lead the local government. During CH Tung’s time as Chief Executive, businessmen held 8 of the 11 nonofficial positions in the government. D. Tsang appointed 70 percent of his non-civil service government from among business, which fell to 50% during CY Leung’s period (SCMP 2/09/2019). C Lam appointed mostly retired civil servants to her government, cutting business elite representation in government. As we shall see, business has many ways to influence government policy, besides directly holding political office. Second, Hong Kong’s legislature continues the colonial practice of empowering the interests of the business elite at the expense of the community (Ma, 2007). Hong Kong’s 70-member Legislative Council is composed of two co-equal constituencies: geographic and functional, each of 35 seats. Pro-government councilors dominate both groups. There are 28 functional constituencies, that mostly allow corporate voting (Webb). This system was introduced by the colonial government in 1991. As few as 130 individual votes may return a legislator in a functional constituency. Generally, the functional constituencies represent business and professional interests. They are heavily invested in Hong Kong’s current economic system (low tax/high land prices, weak local state) and on the Mainland. Geographic constituency councilors are returned through universal suffrage in which tens of thousands participate in each constituency. The Basic Law requires that all private members bills be approved by majorities of both functional and geographic constituency councilors. The existence of functional constituencies devalues the votes of most citizens who are excluded from functional constituency participation through the practice of corporate voting. Finally, beginning with the 2016 Legislative Council term, government began to remove elected councilors who refused to be sworn into office properly as a form of political protest. Accordingly, government has removed 6 opposition elected councilors for misconduct, mostly related to deliberately mis-stating the oath to make a political statement (e.g., by advocating selfdetermination or independence for Hong Kong). Courts have approved these removals. Among the 6, the courts also jailed some councilors for their 12

activities during the 2014 Occupy protests. Five by-elections have returned fewer opposition councilors. Accordingly, protesters in Hong Kong observe that even if their favorite candidate wins a seat, government may remove him or her for misconduct or jail them. Since 2016 the government has banned a political party (Nationalist Party) advocating independence for Hong Kong, jailed its leader for 6 years, and banned all candidates who in the government’s view advocate independence. Banned candidates have challenged the restriction in court, and in one case the court overturned the ban for being arbitrary (not giving the candidate an opportunity to explain or defend herself.) I conclude, then, that even if the public vote and their candidate wins, the public may not be represented in the legislature. Given Hong Kong’s lack of representative institutions, various Hong Kong governments have surveyed public opinion to help govern the territory. The government’s Central Policy Unit handled this task until 2017 when Chief Executive C. Lam government took over. Since 2017, government reorganized the CPU and stopped most polling of public opinion, arguably one of the actions that contributed to the severity of the anti-extradition protests. The Basic Law, local law, and Chinese Communist Party practice provide for a ‘weak’ state in Hong Kong. The Chief Executive needs legislative support to govern, which may not be given. Proportional representation, a party list voting system and functional constituencies in Legislative Council ensure political division. Local laws prohibit the Chief Executive from belonging to one of Hong Kong’s many small political parties. The Chinese Communist Party appoints only non-politicians as Chief Executive, fearing the ability of politicians to mobilize the community and assuming that the role of Chief Executive is primarily managerial. This assumption has had disastrous consequences for Hong Kong. 5. Civil society: Identity politics From Hong Kong’s colonial legacy sprang the territory’s civil society, which is built almost entirely of emigres from the Mainland. They have flooded into Hong Kong to escape wars and revolution on the Mainland. They have their own often very critical views of the political system on the Mainland and the role of the Chinese Communist Party in it, undoubtedly based on their and their families personal experience. They are the parents and grandparents of many of those who joined the 2019 protests. Conflict between Mainland and Hong Kong has its source in an ambiguous Basic Law, different perceptions and interests, and different life experience (revolution, colonialism, the ‘through train’, etc.). Localism is common everywhere but is exaggerated in the Mainland-Hong Kong case. Conflict has 13

occurred over right of abode in Hong Kong; mother tongue teaching, rather than teaching in English (also should mother tongue be Cantonese or Mandarin?); the location of a high speed rail station, linking Hong Kong with the rest of Mainland and beyond; co-location of immigration/border security in the Hong Kong high speed rail station in Kowloon which brought Mainland public security officers in to the heart of Hong Kong; parallel trading and Mainlanders buying up basic commodities such as milk powder; Mainlanders bidding up housing prices, and so forth. Mainland public security forces have operated in Hong Kong, for example, to ‘rendition’ tycoons and Hong Kong booksellers marketing books banned on the Mainland, back to the Mainland. People in Hong Kong protested in the streets over many of these issues. In 2019 the largest group of protesters are relatively well-educated millennials (20-40 years of age) (Lee, et al, 2019). Survey data reveal that this group mostly identifies as Hong Kongers, not as Chinese (Public Opinion Poll quoted in Economist). Conflict over identity is a critical issue in Hong Kong. It leads to conflict between the recent growing number of Mainlanders visiting and residing in Hong Kong and permanent resident Hong Kongers (Vickers and Kan, 2003). Hong Kong has become increasingly crowded. Hong Kong accepts 150 immigrants from the Mainland per day, who may settle in Hong Kong and bring their families with them. Since 1997, 1.5m Mainland immigrants have re-settled in Hong Kong, accounting about 20% of the population. Of these, 990,000 have come on the 150/day scheme. Mainland authorities select the Mainland-origin immigrants, not authorities in Hong Kong. Generally, Mainland officials seek to reunite families, not provide for talent for Hong Kong in this immigration scheme. Hong Kong also operates a talent import scheme, but it brings in very few immigrants. Language is an issue. Hong Kongers speak Cantonese, while Mainlanders generally speak Mandarin (putonghua). The spoken dialects of Chinese are vastly different (mutually unintelligible) and require study and practice to master. Although Mandarin is the official language of the Mainland, Hong Kong’s education system does not give Mandarin a high priority in schools. In Hong Kong secondary schools, for example, 63% of schools use completely Cantonese to teach the Chinese language, and only 2.5% use completely Mandarin (Secretary for Education, 2018). Identity politics is fueling protest. As the Mainland has become relatively richer and Hong Kong relatively poorer, a sense of relative depravation and frustration is driving some of the protests (Gurr, 2011). Protesters in September/October attacked Mainland businesses in Hong Kong, vandalizing their premises and setting fires (e.g., Bank of China branches), businesses 14

perceived to have Mainland links (e.g. food and traditional medicine retailers), and individual Mainlanders caught up in the violence. Protesters posted anti-communist graffiti in public places (e.g., universities, shopping centers). And they attacked the Maxim’s chain of restaurants, coffee shops (Starbucks), and bakeries, complaining that a family member of the owner had denounced the Hong Kong protesters before a United Nations committee in New York. In these incidents, protesters seem to be denying to others who disagree with them the very values they claim to be fighting for. Part of the community in Hong Kong, then, is resisting what it sees as creeping Mainlandization, increasing marginalization, relative impoverishment, declining living standards, and the perceived loss of the freedoms they have enjoyed as Hong Kong’s relative autonomy is contested and narrowed. 6. Discussion As of writing the anti-government protests are now in their fifth month with no end in sight. Government officials admit that ‘they cannot escape responsibility’ for the chaos but refuse to be held to account (SCMP 14.10.2019). Activists have abandoned their ‘occupy’ tactic, for mobile, guerrilla-style action. Connected by social media, protesters are fast, agile, and outmaneuver the police. Demonstrators are now throwing Molotov cocktails, lethal weapons that can maim and kill. The depth of hate for the police and the government is frightening. Government advisors admit that the police, on whom the government almost exclusively relies to govern, ‘are clearly outmaneuvered and outnumbered, are failing to get the situation under control and restore public respect for law and order’ and that the public could see the government as ‘incompetent’ (SCMP 13.10.2019). They too refuse to resign to take responsibility for their role in this saga. With every week of lawless protest the government loses further authority, a very dangerous situation. The Mainland has mobilized its population to attack the protests in Hong Kong. Does the Mainland want an end to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the political experiment with one country, two systems? According to one view, chaos in Hong Kong, so long as it does not spill over the border, is good for unifying the Chinese Communist Party. This allows the central government to play the nationalist and law and order card; not the democracy and human rights card which Chinese Communist Party cannot win. In this view there will be no military intervention in Hong Kong because ‘this would be playing into US hands, just what the US wants.’ Military intervention is unlikely, in this view, so as not to be provoked by the US, not because of the huge cost to Hong Kong. But as the protesters become 15

increasingly violent, there may be no other option. As protesters host visiting US Senators in Hong Kong, eager to stir the pot, President Xi Jingping has warned that ‘anyone trying to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones. And any external forces backing such attempts at dividing China will be deemed by the Chinese people as pipe-dreaming’ (SCMP 15.10.2019). This could presage a massive and violent military crackdown, which would have devastating consequences for the people of both Hong Kong and China. Putting down the protest by military force would be only a short-term fix. A solution must address Hong Kong’s yawning economic and political inequality. The state in Hong Kong must tax Hong Kong’s rich at higher rates and redistribute political power to be more inclusive. The colonial political economy of Hong Kong must be fundamentally reformed. Curiously, protesters have not focused their fury on Hong Kong’s tycoons, and class conflict in Hong Kong continues to be muted. One explanation may be that the community still perceive that Hong Kong offers sufficient opportunities for upward social mobility, a ‘founding myth’ of Hong Kong (Fosh, 1999). Clearly the opportunities for youth in Hong Kong today are seriously constricted. Looking at the post-1997 period we can see increasing numbers of popular protests, ever larger, and involving more of the community. Why? The protests are an indication that Hong Kong’s economic, education, civil service and political institutions have failed the people of Hong Kong. They are unable to articulate their interests in them and they do not produce policy that meets the expectations of the people. Into this toxic mix enter conflict over identity. In some sense, the Chinese Communist Party has not served Hong Kong well. Consider the party’s leadership choices. The Chinese Communist Party has relied on politically inept tycoons and civil servants to govern Hong Kong, a policy that has clearly failed. Still, it is impossible to see how violent protest in today’s China will lead to ‘real’ democracy in Hong Kong.


REFERENCES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.


12. 13. 14. 15. 16.

Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. 1992. HK: One Country Two Systems Economic Research Institute Ltd. Burns, John P. 2004. Government Capacity and the Hong Kong Civil Service. HK: Oxford University Press. Burns, John P. and Li Wei. 2015. ‘The impact of external change on civil service values in post-colonial Hong Kong. The China Quarterly 222 (June) 522-46. Cai Yong Shun. 2016. The Occupy Movement in Hong Kong: Sustaining Decentralized Protest. London: Routledge. Cheung, Gary Ka-wai. 2009. Hong Kong’s Watershed: the 1967 Riots. HK: Hong Kong University Press. Fosh, Patricia, et al (eds.). 1999. Hong Kong Management and Labour. London: Routledge. Ghai, Yash. 1997. Hong Kong’s New Constitutional Order: Resumption of Chinese Sovereignty and the Basic Law. HK: Hong Kong University Press. Goodstadt, Leo. 2013 Poverty in the Midst of Affluence: How Hong Kong Mismanaged its Prosperity. HK: Hong Kong University Press. Gurr, Ted R. 2011. Why Men Rebel. London: Routledge. Ho Tsz Yeung. 2013. Revisiting Hong Kong identity: The case of antimoral and national education curriculum movement. HK: City University Library. Available at: http://lbms03.cityu.edu.HongKong/oaps/ais2013-4051-hty422.pdf Lee, Francis L. F., Gary Tang, Samson Yuen, and Edmund W. Cheng, "Onsite Survey Findings in Hong Kong's Anti-Extradition Bill Protests", Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, August 2019. Littlewood, Michael. 2010. ‘The Hong Kong tax system: its history, its future, and the lessons it holds for the rest of the world. The Hong Kong Law Journal. 40:1. 65-84. Loh, Christine. 2010. Underground Front: the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong. 2nd ed. HK: Hong Kong University Press. Ma Ngok. 2007. Political Development in Hong Kong: State, Political Society, and Civil Society. HK: Hong Kong University Press. Morris, Paul. 2009. ‘Education, politics and the state in Hong Kong’. In Marie Lall and Edward Vickers, eds. Education as a Political Tool in Asia. London: Routledge, 83-102. National People’s Congress Standing Committee. 2014. ‘Issues Relating to the Selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by Universal Suffrage and on the Method for


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19. 20. 21. 22. 23.

Forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the Year 2016.’ Available at: https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1582245/full-textnpc-standing-committee-decision-hong-kong-2017-election Poon, Alice. 2011. Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong. 2nd ed. HK: Enrich Professional Publishing. Secretary for Education. 2018. ‘LCQ21: The use of Putonghua as the medium of instruction for teaching the Chinese Language Subject in primary and secondary schools.’ Available at: https://www.info.gov.HongKong/gia/general/201802/07/P201802070 0609.htm South China Morning Post [SCMP], Hong Kong, various issues. State Council White Paper. 2014. ‘The practice of the “one country, two systems” policy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.’ Tsang, Steve. 2004. A Modern History of Hong Kong. HK: Hong Kong University Press. Vickers, Edward and Flora Kan. 2003. ‘The re-education of Hong Kong: Identity, politics, and education in post-colonial Hong Kong.’ American Asian Review. 21:4 Winter, 401-50. Webb-Site. 2019. ‘The most likely outcome for Hong Kong’ September 3. Available at https://webb-site.com/articles/outcome.asp



Focus One country, two systems

1 2

Hong Kong is a part of China Hong Kong to have ‘high degree’ of autonomy


Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong Expiry in 2047


7 8 9 13.14

15 17


State owns all land, resources Laws previously in force, continue English may be used Central People’s Government responsible for foreign affairs, defense Central People’s Government appoints Chief Executive, principal officials National People’s Congress Standing Committee may invalidate Hong Kong laws Previous laws continue in force


Remarks Socialist system and policies on Mainland not practiced in Hong Kong Also, Art 12 Also, Art 12 and Hong Kong come directly under central gov’t No socialist system and policies; Previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years System maintained

Hong Kong may ask Central People’s Government for People’s Liberation Army assistance to maintain public order and disaster relief (14) Selection Committee role laid down in 1990 National People’s Congress decision National People’s Congress Standing Committee may interpret Basic Law 158; National People’s Congress may amend Basic Law (159) Central People’s Government may declare emergency if ‘turmoil’ that endangers national unity, security and beyond control of local gov’t; Central People’s Government may apply national laws to Hong Kong under these



Remarks circumstances


Independent judiciary; no jurisdiction over ‘acts of state such as foreign affairs, defense’


Hong Kong must enact laws to safeguard nation

Arts 80-96; judiciary to take guidance from National People’s Congress Standing Committee; maintain previous system Including treason, succession, sedition, subversion, theft of state secrets, outlawing foreign political organizations conducting political activities in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; no ties to foreign political organizations or bodies

24 25

Right of abode outlined All Hong Kong residents equal before the law Rights


30 32 43

Freedom & privacy of communication Freedom of religion, activities Accountability



65 68

Advisory bodies Legislative Council


Equality before law, voting, stand for election, speech, press, publication, association, assembly, procession, demonstration, form and join trade unions, strike (United Nations ICCPR, ICESCR, continue in force)

Chief Executive accountable to Central People’s Government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government accountable to Legislative Council Previous system maintained Annex II keeps functional constituencies; Ultimate aim: universal suffrage; Split voting



79 81 86-87


Legislative Council Judiciary Trial by jury; criminal and civil proceedings Appointment of judges; terms; use overseas council Civil service



111 120 136, 137 141

Hong Kong dollar Land leases Education




Sports, non-government organizations in sports Subventions of non-government organizations

91, 93, 94


Source: Basic Law.


Remarks for non-govt motions, bills, amendments Disqualification mechanisms Judicial system to continue To continue To continue Maintain previous system (no privileges for foreigners) Low tax previously in force as a reference Continue System to continue Maintain previous system (136); non-government organizations may run schools (136); retain autonomy (137); freedom of choice of educational institutions (137); freedom of religion (141); right of religious organizations to run schools, etc. (141) Recognition, qualifications continue Continue Continue


1. Bilveer Singh, “The Threat of Terrorism in ASEAN - Focus on Indonesia”, 2017 2. Nguyen Anh Thu , Vu Thanh Huong, Le Thi Thang Xuan, “Vietnam’s Trade Integration With ASEAN + 3 : Trade Flow Indicators Approach”, 2017 3. LEE Yo-Han, “Korea’s Policy on the South-South Cooperation and the Triangular Cooperation with ASEAN Countries: Focusing on Thailand”, 2018 4. Sueo Sudo, “Japan and ASEAN in the Global Insecurity Context”, 2018 5. Lei Zhuning, “China and the Mekong Region in the New Era”, with commentaries from Chalongrat Charoensri and Tarida Baikasame, 2018 6. John P. Burns, “‘If we burn, you burn with us’: China’s 2019 Political Crisis in Hong Kong”, 2019

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