Decolonisation deferred : Hong Kong identity in historical perspective

Wing Sang LAW

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The identity of Hong Kong people has created endless debates before the handover of the city from Britain to China in 1997. It has drawn people’s attention again in recent years, especially, in view of the upsurge of political activism caused by a series of China-Hong Kong conflicts. The widespread discontent over Beijing’s acts to bar Hong Kong from developing a democratic electoral system gave rise to the “Umbrella” occupation in 2014. The campaign was also overshadowed by the contentions between rival groups divided by their positions regarding the issues of political identity, local consciousness and even political separatism. This new tendency to associate pro-democracy movement with identity issue put the “One Country, Two Systems” formula to the test. Although most people did not expect China would allow the high degree of autonomous rule to be implemented in Hong Kong, more and more people now feel that Beijing’s interventions in local affairs have become regular. The rapid pace of integrating Hong Kong with China is turning Hong Kong into just another Chinese city. Out of frustration, radical thinking and ideologies emerged – in an attempt to defy the legitimacy of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China that happened twenty years ago. This line of “localist” thinking also expresses its advocates’ strong feeling about their cultural difference with Mainland China; they regard their quest for autonomy and democracy as part of their battle to defend Hong Kong’s own culture and identity. Yet from the pro-Beijing establishment’s point of view, the persistence of dissenting voices in Hong Kong is attributable to the uncompleted process of “return”: namely, successful only in political but not in cultural and ideological terms. Although the above views are diametrically opposite to each other, they both point to the flaws of the process in which the transferal of Hong Kong’s sovereign power was negotiated between Britain and China in the early 1980s.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCitizenship, identity and social movements in the new Hong Kong : localism after the Umbrella Movement
EditorsWai-man LAM, Luke COOPER
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781315207971
ISBN (Print)9781138632950, 9780367272937
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


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