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Special Feature

Editorial – Hong Kong in the 2020s: Reset amidst Challenges

Wai-man Lam and Emilie Tran
p. 3-5

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  • 1 Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China 國務院新聞辦公室, “‘一國兩制在香港特別行政區 (...)
  • 2 Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, “Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amend (...)

1Since China resumed its sovereignty over Hong Kong on 1 July 1997, Hong Kong’s relations with Beijing have undergone three decades of change, from apprehension to integration and then to clashes (Ho and Tran 2019). As a result, the “one country, two systems” model has been continuously readjusted (Lam, Lui, and Wong 2012, 2024). Additionally, the governing ideology in Hong Kong has changed from maintaining the status quo in the local polity to soft authoritarianism under the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government, to Beijing-led comprehensive jurisdiction. This illustrates the central authority’s decision to assert its power over Hong Kong, and the evolution of Mainland-Hong Kong relations since 2014. In 2014, the State Council of China published a white paper titled The Practice of the “One Country, Two Systems” Policy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,1 stating the principle of “overall jurisdiction” (quanmian guanzhi quan 全面管治權). Beijing further adjusted its policies on Hong Kong after the Anti-extradition Law Amendment Bill movement in 2019. Set to restore social order amidst lingering distrust towards the HKSAR government (Cole and Tran 2022), the national security law for Hong Kong that criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces came into effect on 30 June 2020, effectively changing Hong Kong’s rule of law (Chan 2022; Cohen 2022; Davis 2022; Hui 2022; Petersen 2022; Yu 2022). Along with this came the Decision of the National People’s Congress on Improving the Electoral System of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region adopted on 11 March 2021, which drastically altered the election methods of Election Committee subsector elections and the Legislative Council’s elections in 2021, and the Chief Executive’s election in 2022.2 On the one hand, law and order supporters argue that Hong Kong has simply restarted, while on the other hand, some pundits argue that these developments have signalled the endgame of the constitutional liberal order and the Special Administrative Region’s distinct way of life (Sautedé 2023). In parallel to the political changes in Hong Kong, the Covid-19 outbreak escalated to become a pandemic in early 2020. Through the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance, the Hong Kong government imposed various lockdowns and social distancing measures to varying degrees until March 2023 when the mask mandate was finally lifted.

2The political twists and turns in Hong Kong over the past decade, set against the backdrop of China’s ascendance and increasing influence in the twenty-first century, have garnered significant international interest. Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has induced enduring transformations in the social, economic, and political landscapes of Hong Kong. While Hong Kong appears to have embarked on a new chapter in the 2020s, as of mid-2024, there has been no systematic review of the various pressing issues that have challenged Hong Kong amidst the changes in the 2020s. Filling a gap in the current state of the art, this special feature employs a mixed method approach (including big data analysis, content analysis, and interviews) and a multidisciplinary perspective (encompassing place branding and public diplomacy, economics, and sociology). It comprises three articles that scrutinise the latest developments in Hong Kong since 2020, reflecting the impacts of the aforementioned political changes and the pandemic. Each paper aims to capture, rethink, and conceptualise the evolving identity and core values of Hong Kong within the broader context of Hong Kong-Beijing relations. They analyse pressing issues such as politics, education, housing, and social integration. Fundamentally, these issues pertain to the changing nature of Hong Kong’s polity as it transitions into a new era linking its historical legacy to its future trajectory.

3Regarding the changing governance in Hong Kong, Contemporary Hong Kong Government and Politics (2nd ed.) edited by Wai-man Lam et al. was published in 2012, and its 3rd edition is projected to be available in September 2024. As a cosmopolitan city, Hong Kong has indeed undergone significant transformations in its relations with other countries, particularly following the Anti-extradition Law Amendment Bill movement in 2019 and the shifting dynamics between China and the global community. In light of international competition, it is crucial to reconsider how Hong Kong can rebrand and reposition itself on the world stage. A systematic update on Hong Kong’s international relations is thus needed. Alistair Cole et al.’s “The ‘Smart City’ between Urban Narrative and Empty Signifier: Hong Kong in Focus” (2023) addresses part of this gap in the literature. The research conducted by Emilie Tran and Eric Sautedé published in this special feature provides a comprehensive longitudinal analysis of Hong Kong’s place branding from 1997 to 2024. Using a two-pronged framework that integrates place branding and critical juncture, their article analyses the practices, politics, and consequences of Hong Kong’s branding strategy. Their study argues that Hong Kong’s current branding strategies are at a critical juncture, reflecting a devolution from an ambitious and holistic approach in the 2000s to consumption-driven promotional campaigns in the 2020s.

4Education in Hong Kong has experienced profound changes since the implementation of the national security law. Vickers and Morris’s work, “Accelerating Hong Kong’s Reeducation: ‘Mainlandisation,’ Securitisation and the 2020 National Security Law” (2023), contributes to understanding these trends. Similarly, Lo and Hung’s The Politics of Education Reform in China’s Hong Kong (2022) offers another perspective on these developments. The Covid-19 pandemic has also had a profound impact on education, compelling students to readjust to post-pandemic school life. Qingyun Li et al.’s study, “Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Liberal Arts Education: An Empirical Study in Hong Kong” (2023) provides a unique contribution to the literature on this topic. Education is commonly understood to facilitate social integration by providing opportunities for social mobility. Nevertheless, there is a notable gap in research regarding how young people in Hong Kong perceive the relationship between education and upper mobility. The study by Beatrice Oi-yeung Lam and Hayes Tang in this special feature addresses this gap by examining the evolving relationship of education and upward mobility from young people’s perspectives, particularly in the post-Covid-19 context in which higher education continues to diversify and internationalise amidst expanding “China opportunities.” Drawing on findings from 40 qualitative interviews, their paper illustrates how the translation of higher education training and credentials into employment outcomes for graduates in Hong Kong defies the logic of human capital theory. The authors reflect on the ensuing inequities in study-to-work transitions, which largely remain unquestioned, and further explore the implications of these findings.

5The housing problem in Hong Kong has garnered significant research attention, particularly concerning the resolution of inadequate housing provision. This includes examining the desirability and feasibility of transitional housing and addressing the poor living conditions in subdivided units. However, no research thus far has investigated, and compared, the price trends in the subsidised housing market and private property markets in Hong Kong. The paper by Eddie Chi Leung Cheung, Yiu Chung Ma, and Kwok Ho Chan in this special feature highlights the observation that higher volatility in subsidised house prices necessitates a reform in subsidised housing policy. Subsidised housing is in high demand, and one important strategy to meet this demand is to enable a better-endowed Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) so that families can transition to becoming homeowners in the private market. The paper investigates the differences in price trends between subsidised and private properties and seeks to identify their determinants. An empirical analysis of historical prices for HOS and private housing reveals higher volatility in HOS prices and a differing trend compared to private market prices. Additionally, their study notes a significant increase in HOS transactions following the implementation of the White Form Secondary Market (WSM) Scheme.

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Bibliography

CHAN, Johannes. 2022. “National Security Law in Hong Kong: One Year On.” Academia Sinica Law Journal (中研院法學期刊) 2022 Special Issue: Hong Kong’s Changing Rule of Law: 39-101.

COHEN, Jerome A. 2022. “Hong Kong’s Transformed Criminal Justice System: Instrument of Fear.” Academia Sinica Law Journal (中研院法學期刊) 2022 Special Issue: Hong Kong’s Changing Rule of Law: 1-20.

COLE, Alistair, and Emilie TRAN. 2022. “Trust and the Smart City: The Hong Kong Paradox.” China Perspectives 130: 9-20.

COLE, Alistair, Dionysos STIVAS, Emilie TRAN, and Calvin LAI. 2023. “The ‘Smart City’ between Urban Narrative and Empty Signifier: Hong Kong in Focus.” Cogent Social Sciences 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/23311886.2023.2231624

DAVIS, Michael C. 2022. “Hong Kong: How Beijing Perfected Repression.” Journal of Democracy 33(1): 100-15.

HO, Wing-Chun, and Emilie TRAN. 2019. “Hong Kong-China Relations over Three Decades of Change: From Apprehension to Integration to Clashes.” China: An International Journal 17(1): 173-93.

HUI, Victoria Tin-bor. 2022. “The Bad Birth and Premature Death of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ in Hong Kong.” Academia Sinica Law Journal (中研院法學期刊) 2022 Special Issue: Hong Kong’s Changing Rule of Law: 159-94.

LAM, Wai-man, Percy Luen-tim LUI, and Wilson WONG (eds.). 2012. Contemporary Hong Kong Government and Politics (2nd ed.). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

LAM, Wai-man, Percy Luen-tim LUI, and Wilson WONG (eds.). 2024 (forthcoming). Contemporary Hong Kong Government and Politics (3rd ed.). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

LI, Qingyun, Youliang ZHANG, Kam Wing CHEUNG, Zhongyang ZHANG, and King Sun LAM. 2023. “Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Liberal Arts Education: An Empirical Study in Hong Kong.” Education Sciences 13(7): 636. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13070636

LO, Sonny Shiu-Hing, and Chung Fun Steven HUNG. 2022. The Politics of Education Reform in China’s Hong Kong. London: Routledge.

PETERSEN, Carole J. 2022. “Territorial Autonomy as a Tool of Conflict Resolution? Lessons from ‘One Country, Two Systems’ in Hong Kong.” Academia Sinica Law Journal (中研院法學期刊) 2022 Special Issue: Hong Kong’s Changing Rule of Law: 195-253.

SAUTEDÉ, Eric. 2023. “Hong Kong, reboot ou reset ?” (Hong Kong, reboot or reset?). Les Grands Dossiers de Diplomatie 73: 48-9.

VICKERS, Edward, and Paul MORRIS. 2022. “Accelerating Hong Kong’s Reeducation: ‘Mainlandisation,’ Securitisation and the 2020 National Security Law.” Comparative Education 58(2): 187-205.

YU, Daniel Ping 虞平. 2022. “論‘總體國家安全觀’對香港法治人權的侵蝕” (Lun “zongti guojia anquan guan” dui Xianggang fazhi renquan de qinshi, “Overall national security outlook”: A new cancer eroding the Hong Kong human rights and rule of law). Academia Sinica Law Journal (中研院法學期刊) 2022 Special Issue: Hong Kong’s Changing Rule of Law: 245-78.

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Notes

1 Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China 國務院新聞辦公室, “‘一國兩制在香港特別行政區的實踐白皮書(英文) (“Yiguo liangzhi” zai Xianggang tebie xingzhengqu de shixian baipi shu (yingwen), The practice of the “one country, two systems” policy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region – White paper (English version)), 10 June 2014, https://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2014-06/10/content_2697833.htm (accessed on 22 June 2024).

2 Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, “Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021,” 3 June 2021, https://www.cmab.gov.hk/improvement/en/bill/index.html (accessed on 22 June 2024).

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References

Bibliographical reference

Wai-man Lam and Emilie Tran, Editorial – Hong Kong in the 2020s: Reset amidst ChallengesChina Perspectives, 137 | 2024, 3-5.

Electronic reference

Wai-man Lam and Emilie Tran, Editorial – Hong Kong in the 2020s: Reset amidst ChallengesChina Perspectives [Online], 137 | 2024, Online since 01 June 2024, connection on 20 July 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/chinaperspectives/16987; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/11y7j

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About the authors

Wai-man Lam

Wai-man Lam was formerly Head of Social Sciences and Associate Professor in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Hong Kong Metropolitan University, No. 30 Good Shepherd Street, Ho Man Tin, Kowloon, Hong Kong (wmlam@live.hkmu.edu.hk).

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Emilie Tran

Emilie Tran is Assistant Professor in politics and public administration in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Hong Kong Metropolitan University, No. 30 Good Shepherd Street, Ho Man Tin, Kowloon, Hong Kong (etran@hkmu.edu.hk). She is also Associate Researcher at the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC) in Hong Kong.

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Copyright

The text and other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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