The Uses of Monarchy in Late-Colonial Hong Kong, 1967-1997

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Hong Kong occupies a famously unusual place within the British decolonisation narrative. As John Darwin noted in an essay published at the time of the handover to China in 1997, Hong Kong lacked a substantial indigenous nationalist movement clamouring for Britain’s exodus, and nor did the colonial government suffer a breakdown in collaboration with local elites. Independence was never a plausible goal for the territory, and accordingly, following Governor Mark Young’s aborted efforts to introduce democratic constitutional reforms in 1946, the colonial authorities did not broach the question of self-government until the 1990s, when the end of British rule was imminent.2 Until the 1960s, most people living in Hong Kong were immigrants or sojourners, and such nationalist aspirations as existed were generally aimed externally; for instance, against the Qing or Japanese. Even after the emergence of a pronounced local ‘Hongkonger’ identity, Britain’s diplomats rarely saw Hong Kong in its own terms, but rather (in Darwin’s phrase) as ‘one square on the larger chessboard of Anglo-Chinese relations’.3 Accordingly, the 1997 change of sovereignty was treated as a negotiation between two sovereign countries, the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This chapter explores the uses of monarchy in the last thirty years of British rule, 1967–97, years in which the colonial government sought to rebuild legitimacy following a major crisis, grappled with uncertainty about continued rule, and ultimately prepared to transfer sovereignty to the PRC.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMonarchies and Decolonisation in Asia
EditorsRobert ALDRICH, Cindy McGREERY
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781526142696
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

Publication series

NameStudies in Imperialism
PublisherManchester University Press


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