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Twenty Years After the Handover: Hong Kong’s Political and Social Transformation and Its Future under China’s Rule
Jean-Pierre Cabestan and Éric Florence
p. 3-6


The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) as well as its Kowloon West terminal are due to open before the end of September 2018. There is probably no saga that better encapsulates Hong Kong’s delicate situation as well as its relations with the central government just 21 years after the British colony’s return to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1997. Many Hong Kong pan-democrats and opposition politicians have questioned the so-called co-location of border procedures at West Kowloon Station, which implies the ceding of part of Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region (SAR) back to the mainland and the permanent presence of mainland China’s immigration and quarantine officers empowered to implement mainland law in the heart of Hong Kong. Some legal procedures launched by opposition politicians are still pending, but for both the Beijing and Hong Kong authorities it is a done deal. Other issues attached to the XRL, such as its high cost, construction defects, expensive ticket prices, likely unprofitability, and delays have marred its construction and completion. Nonetheless, this ambitious, long-planned, and long-expected project has raised many questions about Hong Kong’s economic integration with the mainland, political and legal autonomy, as well as Hong Kong identity, more than 20 years after the handover. It has, to put it simply, led a growing number of Hong Kongers to ask themselves: is the SAR likely to become just another Chinese metropolis like Shanghai or Guangzhou? Can Hong Kong keep not only its promised “high degree of autonomy” but also its uniqueness?

Presented at a conference co-organised by the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China and Hong Kong Baptist University’s Department of Government and International Studies in September 2017, the five articles selected for this special issue underscore some of the crucial political and social transformations that have been taking place in Hong Kong since the handover. But none of them point in any way towards a full integration of Hong Kong into the PRC’s polity and society. These contributions, drawing from the fields of sociology, political sciences, political economy, and social sciences, are all written by Hong Kong scholars who in addition to producing outstanding scholarship all show, we feel, a particularly high degree of commitment to the future of their city.

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Bibliographical reference

Jean-Pierre Cabestan and Éric Florence, « Editorial », China Perspectives, 2018/3 | 2018, 3-6.

Electronic reference

Jean-Pierre Cabestan and Éric Florence, « Editorial », China Perspectives [Online], 2018/3 | 2018, Online since 01 September 2018, connection on 23 January 2019. URL :

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About the authors

Jean-Pierre Cabestan

Jean-Pierre Cabestan is Professor in Political Science at the Department of Government and International Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University.AAB 1110, 11/F, Academic and Administration Building, Baptist University Road Campus, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong (

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Éric Florence

Éric Florence is Director of the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China.CEFC, 20/F, Wanchai Central Building, 89 Lockhart Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong (

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