Published on
8 September 2004

Expediency or Principles in Managing Political Crises: the Hong Kong Experience

By: Leo F Goodstadt


Leo F Goodstadt was Chief Policy Advisor to the Hong Kong Government, 1989-1997 Seminar on 8 September 2004

The end of British rule in Hong Kong could be discussed in terms of the final act in Asian colonial history: the conclusion of China’s experience of foreign invasions and the demise of the last significant possession of the former British Empire. Or the transfer of sovereignty to the Chinese Government might be analysed as an important chapter in Britain’s post-imperial foreign policy. To focus on the diplomatic process would be justified by the way the transfer was constructed around the 1984 Sino -British Joint Declaration, reportedly the sole example of a major British treaty achieved without United States involvement since 1945. Or, the analysis might be set in a wider context: the increasing difficulties of modern governments in managing situations which significantly affect the wellbeing of large numbers of people – in this case, Hong Kong’s population of six million people.


The aim of this presentation is to explore how the art of diplomacy applied to Hong Kong became affected by much the same dilemmas as the management of community-wide problems by governments in general. These tend to differ from the crises that confronted governments in the past because of the following four factors that characterise what might be labelled a “mega-crisis’:

  • Scale: the large numbers of potential victims, the serious extent of the likely damage or the severe long-term consequences;
  • Complexity: the complexity of the scientific or the technical issues involved and of the possible remedies;
  • Sensitivity: the political sensitivity of both the threat and its solutions, which creates a strong aversion to open discussion and dissemination of information in order to avoid public panic and, even more persuasive, to keep control of the political fallout; and
  • Credibility: the public’s suspicions that information is being withheld and that its government is anxious to conceal misjudgements which failed to prevent the threat or actually aggravated its consequences.Such “mega-crises’ are seen as generated mostly by modern science and technology, generally involving large-scale dangers to the community’s health or the public’s safety. But they are not exclusively scientific or technological in origin. They may involve such issues as educational reforms, law-and-order-strategies and privatisation of public assets. Diplomacy also provides examples, though they are rarely noticed in this context. Finally, such situations are not always the outcome of failed leadership. Even victory in war is no longer an unmixed triumph. Battlefield heroes become casualties in their own turn, victims of “Gulf War syndrome’ or post-traumatic stress for which political leaders and their officials are held responsible.This paper will argue that Hong Kong’s transition from British to Chinese sovereignty was characterised by all four factors set out above.
  • Scale: The arrangements for the post-colonial blueprint were a matter of survival both for individuals and society.
  • Complexity: The issues involved in negotiating the post-colonial arrangements were extremely complex and technical. They involved reaching agreement between a modern Western democratic state (the United Kingdom) and a Third World nation under communist rule (China) on the blueprint to ensure the survival of a major First World city integrated into the global economy and committed to the rule of law (Hong Kong).
  • Sensitivity: A majority of Hong Kong people, it will be shown, saw progress towards greater democracy as the best safeguard for Hong Kong’s open society and personal freedoms once it came under the authority of the Chinese Communist Party and its leaders. The British Foreign Office believed that political reforms would provoke Beijing, whose goodwill London regarded as vital. Both the Foreign Office and the colonial administration feared such reforms would alienate the local business and professional classes on which the colonial power structure very relied heavily in the absence of democratic institutions. China’s leaders viewed proposals for political reforms at the end of British rule as a stratagem to sabotage the post-colonial administration. In consequence, the negotiations were regarded by both Beijing and London as extremely sensitive and only manageable through secret diplomacy1.
  • Credibility: The Hong Kong community grew increasingly disillusioned by discussions of Hong Kong’s fate behind closed doors and highly suspicious of both London and Beijing. The public’s mistrust was heightened by the little weight attached to its views and the absence of any genuine representatives from the community in the negotiation process.

This was truly a “mega-crisis’ for Hong Kong of a very modern sort.

A New Cynicism

On the whole, governments everywhere handle “mega-crises’ badly, leading to a serious erosion of confidence in the viability of traditional democratic institutions. This scepticism is quite different from traditional “libertarian’ political philosophical doctrines which view the state, whether democratic or not, as potentially dangerous and irrational2.Ancla It is also very different from the much more influential “liberal’ economists who attempt to minimise the state’s direct responsibility for the well-being of its citizens. These are exemplified by Hayek who claimed to have sought in vain “to discover the meaning of what is called ‘social justice’ for more than ten years… the phrase has no meaning whatever.’ This school of thought sees a serious clash between democracy and economic well-being because it views democratic institutions as in direct conflict with capitalism and a market economy and at the mercy of politicians bent on bribing the electorate3.

The contemporary form of political disillusionment is not inspired so much by a disbelief in the merits of democracy as by a decline of confidence throughout the Western world in the capacity of governments to deal with the most serious challenges that confront modern states. Their rulers are suspected of giving priority to the smooth management of crises rather than to a search for optimal solutions, to managing public perceptions rather than to mobilising the community’s commitment to realistic remedies, to ignoring the moral dimension – in particular, the duty of frankness to those at risk and the obligation to refrain from illegal acts. Cynicism is encouraged by suspicions that modern governments are dominated by an expediency best described as the “politics of convenience.’

This disregard of the moral issues is a modern twist to Thomas More’s observation that those who seek public office face a special temptation: “The great thing that they chief like therein is that they may bear a rule, command and control other men, and live uncontrolled and uncommanded themself4.’ In any case, a disinclination to confront uncomfortable realities is a common weakness within government, and one which Thomas More himself faced. After his downfall, his letters “in chains’ reveal, the intrepid bureaucrat was anxious to find a solution built on compromise that would mask the clash of pragmatism and principle. Indeed, he went out of his way to fudge the differences between the King and himself over the primacy of the Papacy5AnclaIn the end, however, More became a model for those involved in affairs of state because he understood that there are compromises and concessions which cannot be justified by hopes of political or even physical survival and he knew at which point expediency must give way to principle.

The Age of Disillusionment

Widespread disillusionment with governments is a phenomenon which has been under way since, approximately, the 1960s. The latest assaults on their credibility have followed the decision to invade Iraq, but this costly exercise was only the last of a line of expeditionary forces despatched to the Third World, stretching back to Indochina. These operations were conducted with a disregard for the principles that Western societies espouse, and they failed to produce the results promised by the political leaders who launched them. There can be little excuse for a government which decides to wage war against a distant foe, inferior in numbers, resources and technology, and then fails to achieve a comprehensive military victory. When that weaker Third World state posed no obviously direct threat to the Western power and invasion provoked successful people’s war or jihad, political credibility wears very thin.

Yet, these military interventions have not been the most directly destructive forces undermining trust in Western political institutions, only the most dramatic examples of the failure of governments to match the expectations of their constituents. More damaging still has been the failure of governments to accomplish their proper goals in the everyday management of public affairs. The public has little reason to think well of its rulers if they fail to prevent the deterioration of basic services, whether it is the educational attainments of students, the efficiency and cleanliness of hospitals or the safety of city streets. The issue here is “performance legitimacy’: the right of political leaders to the community’s respect and cooperation because they provide the public with the services essential to its wellbeing.

“Performance legitimacy’ involves a political morality that has a longer history than democracy in the European context. For example, Aquinas, a mediaeval monarchist, was very clear that governments should be judged on their records6:

… a government becomes unjust by the fact that the ruler, paying no heed to the public welfare, seeks his own personal advantage… there is a greater departure from the public welfare in an oligarchy, in which the advantage of the few is sought, than in a democracy, in which the advantage of the many is sought.

The Sources of Scepticism

The substance of politics, then, is performance, not public relations, and a respect for ordinary citizens and their ability to assess how sincerely “public welfare’ is the politician’s first priority. All too often, Western political leaders treat their constituents with a patronising distrust. Rulers tend is to see the public both as misled and as easy to mislead. Faced with serious problems, governments become increasingly concerned with control of information and the partisan presentation of events. The underlying assumption is that the public would not react rationally and sympathetically if told the truth in plain terms. The result is that plans are formulated, programmes are introduced and pledges are made that problems will be overcome and benchmarks achieved. When conditions do not improve as rapidly as promised, all too often measures are taken to obscure the shortfalls and to avoid blame. Governments do not take their constituents into their confidence, and the public has less and less reason to trust political leaders and those involved in political activities, including the media which report them. The gap between rulers and ruled widens, even when the disappearance of deference and the adoption of “estuary English’ mask this trend.

A blame-avoidance strategy is particularly tempting when the issues are technical, especially if they involve health matters. Here, a government usually has considerable control over the data, and its experts “define’ the risks for the public. The almost inevitable official view is that the public’s own anxieties are “irrational’ because they are out of step with the opinions of the experts. The outcome here is not just a widening gap between governments and their constituents. Even more alarming, a barrier is erected between political institutions and the rest of the community which directly threatens the wellbeing of society. There are ample examples of the dangers of such barriers. It is not possible to contain the threats posed by such events as mad-cow disease or foot-and-mouth disease without mobilising all the expert resources of society – including the expertise outside the civil service. Similarly, it is hard to imagine that the threat caused by “super bugs’ can be contained unless the bulk of those who frequent hospitals – the patients in particular – are encouraged to insist that doctors and nurses change their habits, wash their hands and ensure that wards are clean.

“Risk Society’

None of the analysis presented so far is original. The concept of “risk society’ as a major contemporary challenge in the West has aroused considerable interest since Ulrich Beck’s book appeared under this title in 19867. The “risk society’ concept seemed to justify a pessimistic assessment of the ability of prevailing Western political culture to cope with the anxiety, scepticism and mistrust of knowledge that are side-effects of advanced technology. It was all too easy to produce evidence of a “politics of convenience’ which encouraged governments and their technical experts to adopt assessments of threats and crises that would minimise political risks and discourage public debate. Beck’s analysis of the increasing threats to survival in a technological age assumed that societies would be democratic and that there was an underlying and accepted obligation for political institutions to represent the public’s views and a duty on political leaders to respond to the public’s expectations. But his crucial argument was that the political leadership was failing to discharge its responsibilities as modern technology altered the political landscape8.

Nevertheless, Beck’s analysis identified other, more positive aspects of the way in which a growing public recognition of the dangers of technically complex situations affected political behaviour. In particular, major threats to public health and safety led to greater political participation, albeit often informally and outside conventional political structures. At the same time, in the search for solutions, a greater awareness emerged among the public of the invaluable contribution from experts outside the civil service and the quangos, from pressure groups and from concerned individuals with no professional qualifications other than personal experience9.

The Hong Kong Case

It might be argued that Hong Kong’s experiences since World War II provided a powerful case against the necessity of democracy either for good government or for prosperity by showing what a community could achieve without the political institutions that Western countries regard as essential. Compared with most Third World societies, Hong Kong flourished under a colonial and very undemocratic rule. It seemed able to focus on the priorities that matter most in defining people’s opportunities and satisfactions: the development of a buoyant economy and the creation of a politically and socially stable community. By the end of British rule, it could claim an impressive record on both counts.

A Misleading Prosperity

Hong Kong achieved in the 1990s a level of GDP per head to match that of the United Kingdom, a feat never accomplished by any other British territory before the end of colonial rule. Its GDP had expanded in real terms every year without interruption since statistics were first compiled in 1961. It was the first society in Asia to escape from poverty after World War II, and by the end of the century, its people had a standard of living unmatched anywhere else in the region except by Japan and Singapore. “No other society in history,’ it has been claimed, “has ever grown wealthy so fast10.’ When the British came to leave, Hong Kong was a major player in the global economy11:

generating a GDP equivalent to over 20% of China’s… the world’s eighth largest trading entity, with the world’s eighth largest stock market, seventh largest financial reserves, fifth largest foreign exchange market, third busiest airport… the world’s busiest port

Against this background, it seemed hardly surprising that, unlike the rest of the British Empire in Asia, Hong Kong never witnessed an indigenous political movement demanding the end of British rule or constraints on capitalism. By any measure of social stability, the community was unmatched in either Asia or the Western world12AnclaIts performance seemed to offer a latter-day justification of both colonialism and capitalism.

Yet, the political underpinnings of British rule were bizarre. By the end of British rule, most of the adult population had been reared, educated and spent much of their working lives in an environment disadvantaged and even impoverished by the failure to upgrade the social infrastructure in line with economic growth. This was no “workers’ paradise,’ with potential discontent or populism bought off through a welfare state. Income inequality was serious and worsened during the closing decades of British rule.. Real GDP grew at an annual average of 6.4 per cent between 1980 and 1996, while labour productivity rose by an annual 4.1 per cent. Over the same period, the annual increase in real wages was only 1.2 per cent, falling to a mere 0.4 per cent a year in the final and most contentious years of British rule (1990-96)13.

In the 1990s, Hong Kong was still paying the price for its humble post-war origins and was burdened by a very Third World heritage.  For example,

  • Until the 1990s, the economy was threatened by recurrent bank runs and corporate scandals, whose causes could be attributed directly to persistent government mismanagement14. In the absence of representative government, there was no political penalty to pay for such gross failures.
  • There was neither a central bank nor a completely level playing field for financial institutions before the Hong Kong Monetary Authority was set up in 1993. Standards for the securities industry and corporate governance still fell short of international benchmarks in 199915.
  • The labour force was not protected by a statutory retirement protection scheme before December 2000. The health -care system was fragmented and inadequate until the creation of the Hospital Authority in 1990.
  • Primary education did not become free and compulsory until 1971, and Hong Kong did not achieve three years of free and compulsory secondary schooling until 1978. At the end of the century, whole-day schooling was available for fewer than half the children in primary education, with school premises still operating morning and afternoon shifts as they had fifty years earlier. Almost 40 per cent of the teaching profession had no degrees, and 15 per cent were untrained16. Would political reforms have made a difference, particularly to economic management? There are two compelling examples of the difference to the quality of the government’s performance that even a very limited measure of democracy could achieve.
  • In 1985, the legislature included a handful of indirectly-elected members for the first time. And for the first time, the colonial administration could not shroud in secrecy the background to the latest chain of bank failures and the cost to the official reserves of rescuing them. It faced outraged critics in the legislature who had not been appointed to public office by government patronage and whom it had no way of silencing with confidential briefings17.Ancla Banking supervision improved dramatically thereafter.
  • In 1997, Hong Kong was hit badly by the Asian financial crisis. The first post-colonial legislature was a wholly -appointed body, whose members allowed the post-colonial administration to disclaim all responsibility for reviving the economy. The following year, an elected legislature took over, albeit with only a minority of directly-elected members. Immediately after the election results had been announced, the Government published a series of urgent measures to revitalise the economy and relieve distress18.

Without Legitimacy

Politically, British rule could make almost no claim on public approbation, let alone legitimacy. Hong Kong’s political rulers were expatriate officials mostly from the United Kingdom, who enjoyed superior social status and employment conditions. The population remained linguistically, culturally and emotionally thoroughly Chinese. It was fully conscious that Hong Kong had become a colony as a result of military action, first during the Opium Wars and secondly as the Manchu Empire crumbled at the end of the nineteenth century. The public would have been hard pressed to perceive any moral justification for the colony’s continued existence until the closing years of the twentieth century.

Hong Kong’s political arrangements remained unchanged from the Victorian heyday of the British Empire, and an oligarchy – the type of rule condemned by Aquinas – retained a privileged place in the power structure. The colonial administration had cooperated with the business élite to thwart the Attlee Government’s policy which had started the rest of Britain’s colonial territories on the road to representative government immediately after World War II19. All members of the legislature were appointed by the colonial administration until the arrival of the first indirectly-elected members in 1985. Not until 1991 were there any directly-elected members.

By this stage, however, the colonial administration was in an extremely weak position. It was losing control over the legislature as the number of appointed members shrank. It had no political party of its own, and with an existence that must expire in 1997, it could not form an alliance with any of the major political groupings that had emerged. It could claim no obvious mandate from the community in support of its policies. Worst of all, the Government’s unelected and bureaucratic characteristics meant that it could expect nothing but criticism from the legislature itself, from pressure groups and from the media. As the last colonial Governor explained, the colonial administration “could never become ‘our government’ in the way that ‘Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong’ might do20.’

It had only two significant political assets:

  • The alternative to British rule was the Chinese Communist Party, and the colonial administration was far more trusted by the public than the Chinese Government (or the United Kingdom) right up to the end of the colonial era21.
  • The quality of administration and the standards of public services were far superior to those available anywhere else in Asia except for Singapore.But it was hard for the colonial administration to turn these comparisons with the other governments into positive advantages. It could hardly claim direct credit for the quality of public services since its preferred ideology was laisser faire. Non-interventionism was not only applied to the economy but also invoked to justify minimising the Government’s responsibility for social affairs. In addition, the colonial nature of the Government meant that the public had no reason to be anything but cynical about its motives, reinforced by the widespread assumption that colonial officials’ first duty must be to serve British interests – at Hong Kong’s expense if necessary.

In consequence, the British entered the final period of their rule in a far weaker position to maintain their authority in terms of both systems and institutions than most Western governments. The colonial administration faced the constant menace that Hong Kong would become ungovernable. The situation was aggravated by the firm date set for the end of the colonial era in 1997, which led to an inevitable decline in the value of British patronage and a rise in the importance of Beijing connections. In addition, the Chinese Communist Party maintained a constant barrage of propaganda that denounced virtually every initiative for social or political development in the 1990s. It was difficult to see how in that decade, the colonial administration could retain the public’s continued cooperation.

Hong Kong thus offers an important case study of government under intense stress:

  • The threats to a society’s survival were acute
  • Society had no retaliatory or even defensive capacity, military, diplomatic or; commercial, to counter external pressures.
  • Its political institutions were not intended to be representative of the community.
  • The population was regarded as incapable of managing its own affairs, was deemed to be “apolitical’ and was labelled as concerned solely with maximising the profits and earnings of the individual22.

The Importance of Politics

Despite Hong Kong’s superlative performance economically and its outstanding record of social and political stability, the community could not afford to view its prospects with complacency. The bulk of the current population or its parents had made the decision to migrate to Hong Kong in advance of the Chinese Communist Party’s impending victory during the Civil War that ended in 1949 or had escaped from the Mainland at considerable risk to their personal safety over the next three decades. Once a date for China’s takeover had been fixed for 1997, huge anxiety was inevitable about the future of Hong Kong’s open society, its individual liberties and its freedom from arbitrary political persecution after the Chinese Communist Party was in a position to control political power23.

The community quickly came to believe that the best defence of Hong Kong’s unique way of life would lie in democratic reforms. The community identified the lack of political reforms as an abiding threat to Hong Kong’s survival as a viable society for two reasons.

  • The decision to hand over the entire population to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule was reached through secret Sino -British negotiations between 1982 and 1984 and regardless of the community’s preferences.
  • There was a refusal, both before and after British rule, to allow the community a directly-elected legislature and the other democratic institutions taken for granted in advanced economies.

It was not that Hong Kong people received any encouragement to pursue Western-style democracy. The Chinese Communist Party and its media organs denounced all suggestions of democratic reforms as a foreign plot to destabilise Hong Kong and ruin its economy24. British officials also attacked the notion that democracy might be suitable for Hong Kong. One Attorney General, a distinguished London Silk, observed25:Ancla

The recent experience of H.M.G. in transplanting western-style constitutions to dependent territories in post-war years has not been altogether successful: the general conclusion to be drawn is that nothing turns out quite as it was intended; so it is wise, I suggest, to proceed cautiously in this field and without preconceived ideas… Asian countries have not readily taken to democratic methods of government. Certainly they have adopted constitutional forms quite different from the Parliamentary style of government that has flourished in Europe. So in Hong Kong, it is all the more necessary to proceed slowly to see whether our community is ready to make use of new opportunities to participate in running their own affairs and whether they will give them their wholehearted support.

The public refused to heed these warnings. In part, its predilection for democracy was a response to the Chinese Government’s own propaganda during the 1982-84 Sino-British negotiations on the future of Hong Kong. Beijing had been anxious to win support from as many influential groups as possible within Hong Kong society, and senior officials appeared to support a democratic system for post-colonial life26.Ancla But once the deal with London had been done, Beijing turned openly hostile to political reforms. China’s leaders preferred to take over the alliance with the business and professional élite in ruling Hong Kong on which the British had relied as a substitute for democracy27AnclaThis tactic proved rewarding for Beijing because this élite offered virtually unquestioning support for the Beijing’s policies towards Hong Kong, particularly over the constitutional blueprint (the Basic Law) which Chinese officials were drafting during the 1980s28.Ancla By contrast, the populist groups proved highly critical of the plans to perpetuate the non-representative, unelected and business-dominated system which had prevailed under colonialism29.

The Chinese Communist Party’s mistrust of pro-democracy groups became intractable after the suppression of the Mainland’s own democracy movement on June 4, 1989, which was followed by a peaceful demonstration in Hong Kong which attracted over a million people30.Ancla Within Hong Kong, “feelings ranged from disillusionment and outrage with the Beijing Government, to a strong urge to protect mainland Chinese and Hong Kong people from arbitrary rule. This generated vociferous demands for democracy31.’

The community was opposed to the alliance emerging between capitalism and communism in opposition to democracy and which seemed likely to enhance the already very privileged position of the business and professional classes. Political reform was not viewed as the path to greater personal freedom or prosperity because by Asian and almost any other measure Hong Kong has enjoyed a high degree of both under non-democratic régimes. Democracy was seen as the best guarantee that these standards would not be undermined in the future. Its importance in the public’s view was reinforced by adverse decisions made by the Chinese Government. The most serious were:

  • the 1989 suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Beijing and across the Mainland;
  • the 2003 attempt to introduce national security legislation for Hong Kong at the expense of civil liberties; and
  • the 2004 directive to postpone early progress towards universal suffrage for Hong Kong.

The first incident led to a protest march In Hong Kong involving over a million participants. The second and third were both followed by a protest march in which up to half a million people took part32AnclaThe tragic element in the two last incidents was the unnecessary alarm which inspired Beijing to intervene. The September elections in 2004, for example, were a powerful demonstration of the community’s mature moderation and the absence of any desire to establish a legislature dominated by an anti-Beijing, anti-business coalition. Several prominent supporters of the Chinese Government’s stand and leading business representatives won seats when they stood for direct election even though a majority of the votes cast went to pro-democracy candidates.

Britain’s Reluctant Reformers

From the start, Hong Kong’s dilemma was aggravated by the lack of enthusiasm for political reform exhibited by the United Kingdom. The official British explanation for the absence of democracy in Hong Kong – in marked contrast to the political reforms introduced throughout the rest of the colonial empire after World War II – was the intransigence of the Chinese Communist Party33.Ancla British diplomats and colonial officials convinced themselves that Beijing was the obstacle, even though, as the leading authority on this topic has stated, not one of the declassified British diplomatic archives for the 1950s and early 1960s records a warning from Beijing to “any British official or diplomat’ that political reforms must not be undertaken34.

The real explanation for the British reluctance to permit reforms can be attributed to the “politics of convenience.’ The colonial administration found it more convenient to manage Hong Kong’s problems through an alliance with an oligarchy: the Westernised affluent élite who seemed to have most to gain from the continuation of British rule and who were most easily co-opted into the colonial power structure35. British diplomats preferred not to risk China’s wrath over Hong Kong issues, in part at least because of their traumatic personal experiences when the British Embassy in Beijing was burnt to the ground in 1967 and its staff were physically assaulted (as were their colleagues in the Shanghai and Macao consulates).

The diplomats became convinced that London should take the initiative to start talks on Hong Kong’s future well ahead of the formal expiry in 1997 of the lease covering the bulk of the colony’s land area. In 1972, the Foreign Secretary briefed the Cabinet on his visit to Beijing and his impression that negotiations on Hong Kong’s future would not be easy36.Ancla However, by the end of the decade, the Foreign Office had still not produced a strategy to manage the resolution of this issue When London eventually raised the Hong Kong question with Beijing, the British side had not defined its objectives or made a thorough assessment of how the Chinese side was likely to react, as two Foreign Secretaries have recounted37.

When in 1982, at London’s initiative, Chinese and British negotiators embarked on two years of secret negotiations to settle the political, social and economic structures which would replace the colonial systems in 1997, the need to make provision for political reforms was overlooked. It was left to the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, to point out in late 1983 that an agreement on Hong Kong’s future without some element of progress to democracy would be unsellable in both the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. At this late stage, the Chinese side could only be persuaded with the greatest difficulty to insert a vague reference to a post-colonial legislature to be “constituted by elections38.’

This deliberate fudging of the issue was in line with the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of democratic development on the Mainland. As the Party sought to consolidate its power in 1949 at the end of the Civil War, it had pledged:

The State power of the People’s Republic belongs to the people…the people’s congresses of all levels shall be popularly elected by universal suffrage. The people’s congresses of all levels shall elect the people’s governments of their respective levels.

The 1954 national constitution retreated from this commitment and created a system of indirect elections to the National People’s Congress (China’s legislature) so that universal suffrage was abolished for all except the lowest level of local government39. The British side appears to have been unaware of this historical indication that Beijing would not favour progress towards democracy for Hong Kong.

After the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed at the end of 1984 and recorded with the United Nations as a binding international agreement, the colonial administration put forward some modest proposals for public discussion on progress towards some form of elected legislature. Chinese officials denounced this move, making clear that reforms, and direct elections in particular, were not on their agenda40.Ancla The British side would have preferred to avoid confrontation with Beijing on this subject, but a commitment had already been made to the community of Hong Kong that a public consultation would take place on the introduction of some element of direct elections in 1988. Beijing adamantly refused to countenance any such measure41.

Faced with a major crisis so soon after the Joint Declaration had solved the “Hong Kong question,’ British diplomats bowed to Chinese pressures during secret talks and agreed

  • to declare that the consultation exercise had not indicated a clear consensus in favour of direct elections in 1988; and, in consequence,
  • to postpone their introduction until 199142AnclaThe Hong Kong public was outraged by this deal, all the more so because opinion polls provided clear evidence of widespread support for their early introduction. British officialdom was accused of having “deliberately rigged the survey of public opinion in order to obtain results which would meet with China’s approval.’ For the colonial administration, the result was, perversely, to create “a sense of injustice which weakened the legitimacy of existing [colonial] institutions and provided fuel for the growth of the democratic movement43.’

Expert but Secret

The colonial administration had fallen into much the same sort of trap as Western political leaders when faced with “mega -crises’ – major threats to society’s survival principally through public health or the environment but also in the current decade from “rogue states’ and terrorism.

  • There was heavy reliance on technical experts – in this case the sinologists and professional negotiators in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
  • As already explained, these failed both to prepare a blueprint for the negotiating process, which was expected to be difficult, or to make contingency plans for predictable crises.
  • Decisions were made in secret and not subject to free debate based on full disclosure of all the information available.
  • The community’s acquiescence in the Government’s plan of action was to be mobilised through controlled disclosures to the media, selective briefings and attempts to conceal matters that would alarm the public.The detailed understandings reached at meetings between British officials and their counterparts on political reform during the 1980s were not disclosed.
  • In the case of the 1984 Joint Declaration, the public was simply informed of the outcome and given no genuine opportunity to review the official decision. Indeed, there was a blunt British warning that “the agreement must be taken as a whole…there is no possibility of an amended agreement. The alternative to acceptance of the present agreement is to have no agreement44.’Ancla
  • In the case of the secret Sino-British arrangements to misrepresent the results of the consultation exercise on direct elections in 1988, the details were concealed until 1997. Their revelation was followed by vain attempts to invoke the Official Secrets Act45.Ancla Nevertheless, the obloquy which followed the surrender to Beijing and the postponement of direct elections until 1991 marked the end of an era for the colonial administration. It would never again dare to engage in secret deals of this sort. The Foreign Office, however, had not learnt this lesson.

Building Credibility

The clawing back of credibility began with Hong Kong’s response to the events of June 1989 in Beijing. The community united in demanding immediate progress towards direct elections. The British Prime Minister was convinced by her staff that it would be perilous to have open confrontation with China on this issue. They advised more secret diplomacy, and the premier sinologist, Sir Percy Cradock, went to Beijing in December 1989. His mission failed.

The following month, Hong Kong’s Governor, Sir David (later Lord) Wilson, met Prime Minister Li Peng and other senior Chinese officials and persuaded them that without a substantial increase in the number of seats to be elected through universal suffrage to the legislature in 1991, both the colonial administration and Beijing’s post-colonial political arrangements would suffer a catastrophic loss of credibility46. Wilson succeeded because he went on an open mission to the Chinese capital with an agenda of which the public was aware. His negotiating brief was based on the political realities of Hong Kong which Beijing could not dismiss without intensifying to alarming levels the community’s mistrust of the Chinese Communist Party and its leadership.

Wilson also displayed a willingness to risk the ire of China’s leaders not displayed by previous Hong Kong Governors since the 1967 crisis caused by an overspill of street violence from Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. To Beijing’s indignation, he announced three measures to restore public confidence after the trauma of June 4, 1989, which Chinese officials warned would be reversed after 1997:

  • a new airport, which Beijing denounced as an expensive monument to the colonial era which would siphon off Hong Kong’s fiscal reserves for the benefit of British contractors;
  • the offer of full British citizenship to 50,000 Hong Kong households, which was condemned as a British bid to lure the best of Hong Kong’s entrepreneurial and professional talent to the United Kingdom; and
  • a Bill of Rights, which was condemned as a plot to sabotage law enforcement and foment social disorder by authorising protests and political agitation.

Open and Accountable Government

In 1991, the first direct elections took place for less than a third of the seats in the legislature. This reform was not enough by itself to satisfy the community. More open government was essential to build up trust. The public had to be convinced that it was being told the truth and that decisions that affected its fate were made on the basis of Hong Kong’s own best interests and regardless of the convenience of the colonial rulers or of the United Kingdom. Expectations of such a fundamental nature were hard to satisfy in a colonial context. By definition, imperialism involves foreigners seeking to expand their interests through the administration of other lands and peoples. Nevertheless, a radical change in the political culture started after the arrival of Christopher Patten as Governor in 1992. To counter Hong Kong’s deeply-rooted scepticism, it was essential that the colonial administration persuade the community of three changes in approach.

  • British rule, even if only in its closing years, would have a moral dimension based on the colonial administration’s trust in the community’s own wisdom.
  • The colonial administration would commit itself to a new concept of community service, upgrading every aspect of its programmes and providing total transparency about the Government’s targets and the progress made in reaching them.
  • The colonial administration, starting with the Governor, would maintain a continuous and open dialogue with the community about the Government’s policies and performance47. Open government which made itself accountable to the community on this scale was a radical departure from colonial traditions, and aroused Beijing’s deepest suspicions. Nevertheless, when Patten took up office, he had no desire to antagonise China’s leaders. On the contrary, he was highly conciliatory and prepared to make two unilateral concessions which his predecessor had steadfastly refused to offer.
  • He would not pursue the British Government’s previous pledge to lobby Beijing for an increase in the agreed number of 18 directly-elected seats for the 1995 legislature.
  • He would exclude from his “cabinet’ (the Executive Council) members of pro-democracy political parties which Chinese officials had blacklisted48.AnclaBut he could not give way to a third Chinese demand: to refrain from discussing any major government proposals in public before receiving their endorsement from the Chinese Government. His hands were tied because the community would no longer allow legislators to approve decisions reached through secret negotiations in Beijing49. There was also a practical obstacle to embracing the tradition of secret diplomacy. British diplomats had neglected to inform him of the content of past negotiations or the commitments made about future cooperation on the pace of political reform50. Here was a further example of serious failure by the professional experts in London.

Whose Future at Stake?

The most serious objection to secret diplomacy about Hong Kong’s future was the lack of respect it implied for the social discipline and political maturity of the people of Hong Kong. It was, after all, their future that was at stake. It would be up to them to make the future political arrangements work. It was they who were being called on to make a commitment to Hong Kong, both of their families and their assets. Not to involve them in the decision-making would have been the act of a government that disregarded both people and principles. Patten expressed his assessment of the civic worth of Hong Kong’s people in terms never heard from Hong Kong’s rulers before51:

The notion that the people of Hong Kong, who operate as successfully as anyone in the world in every market known to man and woman, are not sufficiently responsible and sophisticated to manage a modest increase in the amount that they can participate in public affairs, in my view, shows an astonishing view of their aptitude and capacity. 

In consequence, he stated that that in negotiating political reforms with Beijing, the “Government cannot claim to be any stronger, any wiser, any more determined than the community itself52.’Ancla He defined the criteria for reaching agreement with the Chinese Government on proposals for the 1995 elections as that they should be “open, fair and acceptable to the people of Hong Kong’ – a plain rejection of a dominant role for technical experts (in this case, the diplomats)53.

The Chinese side immediately grasped the significance of this development and the tougher environment Beijing would face as the Foreign Office’s role diminished. It made its displeasure public over the way in which control over negotiations had been transferred from London to Hong Kong54.Ancla Beijing was able to recruit British businessmen and some diplomats to bring pressure on the British Government to reverse Patten’s break with the past55AnclaThe attempt to restore the sinologists’ dominance failed, however. In the end, the Chinese Government retreated from its initial adamant refusal to discuss the constitutional package which Patten had presented to the public in October 1992 in defiance of Beijing’s wishes. A total of 17 rounds of negotiations took place in the Chinese capital, but they failed to reach a settlement, and Patten’s package was passed into law without China’s approval.

Patten was candid about the idealistic dimension to his effort to achieve more democratic political arrangements. “Anything less than that would surely undermine the rule of law, and that rule of law is essential to the maintenance of Hong Kong’s prosperity and freedom,’ he urged, “The argument fuses together what is right — what is moral, if you like — with what is expedient56.’Ancla But his bid to give the community real influence over diplomatic decisions as well as the general work of the Government did not buy public support overnight.

The polling evidence showed that during the fruitless negotiations in Beijing, Patten’s “reforms received weak rather than overwhelming [public] support57.’ On past British performance, the community had no reason to believe that the Governor would live up to his moral principles. Furthermore, pro-democracy supporters criticised his proposals as a compromise with full democracy, while Beijing’s supporters attacked them as a betrayal of Britain’s obligations to cooperate with China . Nevertheless, this scepticism receded as Patten stood his ground and kept his side of the bargain with the community. The polling evidence shows that if Patten’s proposals had not been followed by such serious confrontation with the Chinese Government, they would have received “resounding endorsement’ from the public. Furthermore, the community would have preferred Beijing not to rescind them after 199758.

Raising the Community’s Sights

On the domestic front, Patten received a warmer reception. He ought to have been gravely handicapped compared with his predecessors drawn from the ranks of the Diplomatic and Colonial Services since he had no experience of the Chinese world. However, Patten’s background as a former Cabinet Minister and chairman of a major political party meant that he came amply prepared for open competition for public support. In addition, his initiatives to improve the social services coincided with the community’s major concerns59AnclaThe key was to deliver a quality of government that solved society’s most pressing problems. Healthy economic growth, a booming stock market and falling inflation, ambitious infrastructural projects and expansion of social services, all gave his administration, he claimed, what amounted to “a record that would have provided a good basis for an election campaign in any western democracy60.’

Patten also injected a moral dimension, a concept of responsible government that began with a concern for ordinary families and, most especially, for the plight of the deprived and the disadvantaged. He said that “welfare services must be more than just a safety net that allows the fortunate majority to enjoy its prosperity with an easy conscience.’ He acknowledged “obligations to the deprived and the disabled’ and refused to leave them “in any doubt about our determination to care for them properly in the years ahead61.’Ancla This kind of social concern was another break with colonial tradition. Once again, the Chinese Government was deeply suspicious of Patten’s motives, accusing him of giving welfare spending a higher priority than industrial development and of giving pride of place to community aspirations rather than to the business agenda62.

Despite these attacks, Patten managed to raise the community’s sights in terms of public sector performance, and he got the Civil Service to deliver major improvements in performance even though it was already under severe pressure from the strains of the transition from British to Chinese rule63.Ancla He announced innovations to rationalise policy-making and publicise the specific aims of government programmes and to tighten management by setting concrete targets and reporting annually to the community on progress in achieving each target64. This approach allowed the Government to calculate the optimum balance between the conflicting demands it faced.  Thus, for example, out of the 1,432 separate policy initiatives announced between 1992 and 1996, 21 percent dealt with housing and social services, while less than 2 per cent related to political development65.Ancla Contrary to an allegation frequently levelled at Patten, the political dramas of this period did not distract the colonial administration from meeting its primary obligations to the community66.

Patten’s term of office highlighted the previous failures of British policy in managing the transition to Chinese sovereignty.

  • Contrary to the opinion of the principal architect of British China policy, it was not true that confrontation with Beijing over Hong Kong was futile and that the British side had “virtually no cards’ to play67.Ancla Public opinion in Hong Kong forced Beijing to the negotiating table.
  • The confrontations with Beijing over political reform, although uncomfortable, did not lead to a collapse of either business confidence or civil service morale.
  • The commitment to open government did not aggravate the colonial administration’s problems despite the extreme sensitivity of many issues in terms of the relationship with Beijing68. On the contrary, government credibility was enhanced.
  • This commitment also helped the colonial administration to avoid becoming a mere caretaker in its final years and enabled it to embark, instead, on extensive reforms of public services and their delivery.A fair conclusion is that while it was true that Hong Kong was a unique historical problem, Foreign Office management of its Hong Kong challenges was marred by much the same sort of mistrust of the public and a preference for the “politics of convenience’ as so often occur in modern “mega-crises.’ There was one significant difference. Because Hong Kong was so remote from the United Kingdom, its electorate and its commercial interests, the diplomats and their ministerial masters faced little danger of being penalised by United Kingdom voters for the failure to promote democratic reforms or to respect the wishes of their disenfranchised, colonial constituents.

A Dangerous Legacy

The end of the colonial era was followed by a nostalgia for the British style of administration, and the public soon concluded that the post-colonial rulers were less transparent and responsive to public opinion than their British predecessors69.Ancla But there was another less creditable legacy which relates to Britain’s post-colonial obligations.

In selling the 1984 Joint Declaration and its post-colonial arrangements, British leaders emphasised their commitment to its implementation in full70. During the colonial era, the British Government asked the Chinese side to confirm that Hong Kong would have the right to a legislature in 2007 constituted entirely by direct elections. The Chinese Government replied that no such confirmation was needed since Hong Kong was legally entitled to decide for itself whether or not to adopt full universal suffrage in that year71.

In 2004, the twentieth anniversary of the Sino-British agreement on Hong Kong’s future, the Chinese Government intervened to prevent any further progress towards universal suffrage for the immediate future, despite its pre-1997 undertaking that Hong Kong had full autonomy on this matter. The United Kingdom issued an official statement that the Chinese decision “appears… to erode the high degree of autonomy which is guaranteed under the terms of the Joint Declaration.’ However, the British Government made it plain that this vague expression of misgivings was as far as London was prepared to go in upholding the Joint Declaration72.

Why did China feel safe in challenging the Joint Declaration in this way? Beijing, it is fair to assume, was relying on the past pattern of British diplomatic behaviour over Hong Kong problems. Throughout the colonial era, the Foreign Office had preferred to avoid confrontation and to minimise public disagreements with China. British diplomats had done their deals with Beijing in the 1980s to pacify Hong Kong demands with the minimum inconvenience to Sino-British relations, and British Governments had shown no serious interest in political reform until the arrival of Christopher Patten in 1992. Why should London prove more resolute in the post-colonial era when it had no further direct responsibilities? The Chinese assessment proved accurate.

The problem for Britain is that the failure to stand firm on principles – even when these have been set out in a binding agreement personally endorsed at the highest political levels – must create an impression among China’s leaders that British Governments will stand firm on nothing that is not convenient. That reputation is worrying in relations between two permanent members of the Security Council. Nor does it foster Britain’s longer-term image in China.

Whenever China’s people have been given the opportunity to voice their views openly, they have always sought political reforms and greater democracy – from the 1911 Revolution to the 1956 “Hundred Flowers’ Campaign and the 1989 “pro -democracy’ movement. How will they view the United Kingdom when eventually they achieve democracy? After all, Britain’s poor record over political reform has become the Chinese Communist Party’s most convenient excuse for postponing universal suffrage. In resisting pressures from Hong Kong for faster political reforms, Beijing’s regular reply has been that the territory after 1997 has enjoyed an unprecedented level of democracy compared with what it had tolerated under colonialism73.

In 2004, the British Government, by condoning Beijing’s departure from the Joint Declaration, lost an important opportunity to repair its sorry record over political reform in Hong Kong while it was still under colonial rule. Early in the twentieth century, Sun Yat-sen, the founder of modern China, expressed his appreciation of the example which colonial Hong Kong had then set the Mainland in terms of honest and efficient government74. Such praise is unlikely to be repeated by any future Chinese leader in view of Britain’s unenthusiastic support for Hong Kong’s own campaign for democracy over the last half century.

  1. For a summary of the way in which the Chinese and British Governments responded to the community’s demands, see Leo F. Goodstadt, “Hong Kong: An Attachment to Democracy,’ The Round Table, Issue 348 (1998), 491-4.
  2. A good example of such pessimism is Anthony de Jasay, Against Politics: On government, anarchy, and order (London: Routledge, 1997).
  3. F. A. Hayek, New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985), pp. 57, 107, 146,155-7, 187-9.
  4. Thomas More, Utopia and a Dialogue of Comfort (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1962) pp. 336-7.
  5. In More’s case, the illegal act to be avoided was to swear what he believed to be false. His concern with managing the crisis seems evident enough from his suggestion that he swear the oath put to him in respect only of the succession to Henry VIII and avoid the controversy over papal authority and also from his reluctance to comment on the position of those who took the oath without demur. An attempt to explain away the earlier conciliatory line he took on the Papacy is not persuasive. W. E. Campbell (ed.), The Last Letters from Blessed Thomas More (London: Manresa Press, 1924), pp. 1 et seq., 33, 20-1, 35-6, 73-4.
  6. He believed, nevertheless, that “the government of a king is the best.’ St Thomas Aquinas, On the Governance of Rulers (De Regimine Principum) (Toronto: St Michael’s College, 1935), pp. 40, 41. He was, of course, too favourable to “people power’ for some later Catholic theologians. See, for example, Victore Cathrein, Philosophia Moralis in Uusum Scholarum (Barcelona: Herder, 1959), pp. 403-4.
  7. The English translation is Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (London: Sage Publications, 1992).
  8. This pessimism dominates Ulrich Beck’s The Reinvention of Politics: Rethinking Modernity in the Global Social Order (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997).
  9. See from example, Jane Franklin (ed.), The Politics of Risk Society (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998), chapters 7, 8 and 14 in particular.
  10. Gordon Redding, “Culture and Business in Hong Kong,’ in Wang Gangwu and Wong Siu Lun (eds), Dynamic Hong Kong: Business & Culture (Hong Kong: Centre of Asian Studies, 1997), p. 102.
  11. Christopher Patten, Governor, Government Information Services (GIS hereafter), 19 November 1996.
  12. On unrest, see Benjamin K. P. Leung, “Social Inequality and Insurgency in Hong Kong,’ in Benjamin K. P. Leung and Teresa Y. C. Wong (eds), 25 Years of Social and Economic Development in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Centre of Asian Studies, 1994), p. 191; Benjamin K. P. Leung, Perspectives on Hong Kong Society (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 148.
  13. A more extensive review of productivity data can be found in John Dodsworth and Dubravko Mihaljek, Hong Kong, China. Growth, Structural Change, and Economic Stability During the Transition (Washington: International Monetary Fund, 1997), p. 6.
  14. See First Report of the Companies Law Revision Committee. The Protection of Investors (Hong Kong: Government Printer, 1971), pp. v-vii, 49; Second Report of the Companies Law Revision Committee. Company Law (Hong Kong: Government Printer, 1973); Y. C. Jao, “Recent Banking Crises in Hong Kong and Taiwan: A Comparative Perspective,’ in Nyaw Mee-kau and Chang Chak-yan (eds), Chinese Banking in Asia’s Market Economies (Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1989), pp. 21-37 and “Monetary system and banking structure,’ in H. C. Y. Ho and L. C. Chau (eds), The Economic System of Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Asian Research Service, 1988), pp. 44-6; Securities Review Committee, The Operation and Regulation of the Hong Kong Securities Industry (Hong Kong: Government Printer, 1988), pp. 32, 230-1.
  15. A Policy Paper on Securities and Futures Markets Reform (Hong Kong: HKSARG, 1999), pp. 16-9.
  16. Fanny Law, Secretary for Education and Manpower, GIS, 9 November 2001.
  17. Officials made it plain that blunt criticism in the legislature of the Government on legal and political grounds had compelled it to defend its record. Sir John Bremridge, Financial Secretary, Hong Kong Hansard, 9 April 1986, pp. 981-7
  18. Goodstadt, The Round Table, pp. 486-7.
  19. The best treatment of this issue is Steve Tsang, Democracy Shelved: Great Britain, China and Attempts at Constitutional Reform in Hong Kong, 1945-52 (Hong Kong: Oxford University, 1988).
  20. Christopher Patten, “Hong Kong History,’ in Hong Kong 1997. A Review of 1996 (Hong Kong: Information Services Department, 1997), p. 2.
  21. The polling evidence is set out in Robert T. Y. Chung, “Public Opinion in the Late Transition Period,’ in Joseph Y. S. Cheng and Sonny S. H. Lo (eds), From Colony to SAR. Hong Kong’s Challenges Ahead (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1995).
  22. Such was the reputation of Hong Kong during British colonial rule. These views of the public’s attitudes were misconceived, though rampant. See J. Steve Hoadley, “’Hong Kong is the Lifeboat’: Notes on Political Culture and Socialization,’ Journal of Oriental Studies, Vol. VIII, No. 1, 1970, pp. 211-3; Siu-kai Lau, Society and Politics in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1982), p. 118; and Michael E. DeGolyer and Janet Lee Scott, “The Myth of Political Apathy in Hong Kong,’ Annals, Volume 547, September 1996.
  23. This legacy of apprehension was expressed with great eloquence by a member of the business and professional élite coopted into the colonial power system. Chan Kam-chuen, Hong Kong Hansard, 16 October 1984, p. 111.
  24. Michael Yahuda, Hong Kong. China’s Challenge (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 72-4. These warnings have continued since the British departure, e.g., Ta Kung Pao, 31 January and 19 July 2004.
  25. Michael Thomas, Attorney General, Hong Kong Hansard, 10 January 1985, p. 559. He overlooked the democratic institutions which had survived several severe tests in India, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan, for example.
  26. The language used by Premier Zhao Ziyang and New China News Agency Deputy Director Li Zhuwen was not as unambiguous a commitment as Hong Kong believed. Hsin -chi Kuan and Siu-kai Lau, “Hong Kong’s Search for a Consensus: Barriers and Prospects,’ in Hungdah Chiu et al. (eds), The Future of Hong Kong. Toward 1997 and Beyond (New York: Quorum Books, 1987), p. 105.
  27. See Leo F. Goodstadt, “China and the Selection of Hong Kong’s Post-Colonial Political Élite,’ China Quarterly, No. 163, September 2000.
  28. Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, “The Transition of Bureaucratic Authority: The Political Role of the Senior Civil Service in the Post-1997 Governance of Hong Kong,’ in Li (ed.), Pang-kwong (ed.), Political Order and Power Transition in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1997), p. 98.
  29. See Ming K. Chan, “Democracy Derailed: Realpolitik in the Making of the Hong Kong Basic Law, 1985-90,’ in Ming K. Chan and David J. Clark (eds), The Hong Kong Basic Law. Blueprint for ‘Stability and Prosperity’ under Chinese Sovereignty? (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1991), pp. 7-8.
  30. In addition to the marches, Hong Kong individuals and groups provided a range of support to the democracy movement on the Mainland in the summer of 1989. Pik Wan Wong, “The Pro-Chinese Democracy Movement in Hong Kong,’ in Stephen Wing Kai Chiu and Tai Lok Lui (eds), The Dynamics of Social Movement in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2000). Beijing’s reaction is summarised in Jermain T. M. Lam, The Political Dynamics of Hong Kong under the Chinese Sovereignty (Huntington: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2000), pp. 222-3.
  31. Ming Sing, “A Changing Political Culture and Democratic Transition: The Case of Hong Kong,’ in Joseph Y. S. Cheng, (ed.), Political Participation in Hong Kong. Theoretical Issues and Historical Legacy (Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press, 1999), p. 90.
  32. For the data which show the link between demands for radical or rapid political reform when Beijing developments seemed to menace Hong Kong’s way of life, see Ming Sing, Hong Kong’s Tortuous Democratization. A comparative analysis (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), pp. 139-42.
  33. Steve Tsang, A Modern History of Hong Kong (London: I. B. Tauris, 2004), p. 207.
  34. Steve Tsang, Hong Kong. An Appointment with China (London: I. B. Tauris, 1997), pp. 117-9.
  35. This alliance between colonialism and capitalism at the expense of political reforms is analysed in Leo F. Goodstadt, Uneasy Partners: The Conflict between Public Interest and Private Profit in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2004), chapter IV. “In Place of Democracy – A Privileged Elite.’
  36. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, (London Public Records Office) CAB 128/50/51 p. 6.
  37. David Owen, Time to Declare (London: Penguin Books, 1992), pp. 405-8; Geoffrey Howe, Conflict of Loyalty (London: Macmillan, 1994), p. 362.
  38. Lord Howe stated: “The idea of elections was only put in place within the last month of negotiations.’ Foreign Affairs Committee, Hong Kong. Minutes of Evidence Wednesday 22 March 1989 (London: HMSO, 1989), pp. 24.
  39. Albert P. Blaustein (ed.), Fundamental Legal Documents of Communist China (New Jersey: Fred B. Rothman & Co, 1962), pp. 38, 11, 21-2
  40. Brian Hook, “From Repossession to Retrocession: British Policy towards Hong Kong 1945-1997′ in Li Pang-kwong (ed.), Political Order and Power Transition in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1997), pp. 20-1.
  41. Ian Scott, “Introduction’ in Ian Scott (ed.), Institutional Change and the Political Transition in Hong Kong (London: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1998), p. 13.
  42. Jonathan Dimbleby, The Last Governor. Chris Patten & The Handover of Hong Kong, (London: Little Brown & Co, 1997), pp. 439-42.
  43. Norman Miners, “Moves Towards Representative Government 1984-1988,’ in Kathleen Cheek-Milby and Miron Mushkat (eds), Hong Kong. The Challenge of Transformation (Hong Kong: Centre of Asian Studies, 1989), p. 29; Ian Scott, “Introduction,’ in Ian Scott (ed.), Institutional Change and the Political Transition in Hong Kong (London: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1998), p. 14.
  44. A Draft Agreement …on the Future of Hong Kong (Cmd 9352/1984), p. 7.
  45. They were revealed in Dimbleby, The Last Governor, pp. 439-42. “Peter Mandelson, the Minister without Portfolio, yesterday confirmed that a ‘leak of intelligence material’ was being investigated. Government sources indicated that Mr Patten could be prosecuted for breaching national security under the Official Secrets Act if he was shown to have passed on the information.’ Daily Telegraph, 4 August 1997.
  46. Steve Tsang, Hong Kong. An Appointment with China, pp. 170-1; Percy Cradock, Experiences of China (London: John Murray, 1994), pp. 231-2.
  47. Details of this process, together with an interesting analysis, can be found in Lo Shiu-hing, Governing Hong Kong: Legitimacy, Communication and Political Decay (New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2001), pp. 29, 33-50.
  48. His two initiatives were in sharp and abrupt contrast to the stand taken by both the United Kingdom and the colonial administration right up to the eve of his arrival in the territory .  See Stacy Mosher, Far Eastern Economic Review, 2 July 1992.
  49. This reality had become unmistakeable after the legislature threw out a Sino-British agreement on the future Court of Final Appeal which contained a major compromise on which the public had not been consulted, See Roda Mushkat, “The joint declaration and the CFA agreement,’ Hong Kong Law Journal, Vol. 26 (1996), pp. 277-81.
  50. Dimbleby, The Last Governor, pp. 140-9, 438-9.
  51. Or since 1997 either. Christopher Patten, Governor, Hong Kong Hansard, 24 October 1992, p. 430.
  52. Hong Kong Hansard, 6 October 1993, p. 58.
  53. ibid., p. 438.
  54. Editorial, Wen Wei Po, 8 July 1995.
  55. Roger Buckley, Hong Kong: the road to 1997 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 137.
  56. Christopher Patten, Hong Kong Hansard, 6 October 1993, p. 57.
  57. Sing, Hong Kong’s Tortuous Democratization, p. 126.
  58. Lau Siu-kai, “Public Attitudes towards the Old and New Regimes,’ in Lau Siu-kai et al. (eds), Indicators of Social Development Hong Kong 1997 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, 1999), pp. 174-5.
  59. The relationship between these concerns and improving public sector performance is analysed in S. M. Shen and Y. L. Lai, “Social Well-being During 1988-1995. An Index Approach,’ in Lau Siu-kai et al. (eds), Indicators of Social Development Hong Kong 1995 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, 1997), pp. 13-5 in particular
  60. Chris Patten, East and West. The Last Governor of Hong Kong on Power, Freedom and the Future (London: Macmillan, 1998), p. 47.
  61. Christopher Patten, Governor, Hong Kong Hansard, 7 October 1992, pp. 23-4.
  62. Zhou Nan, Director of the New China News Agency, Hong Kong Branch, Eastern Express, 10 April 1996; Wen Wei Po, 4 March 1993; People’s Daily overseas edition, 8 March 1994.
  63. See Jane C. Y. Lee, “Civil Servants,’ in Donald H. McMillen and Man Si-wei (eds), The Other Hong Kong Report 1994 (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1994).
  64. Ahmed Shaiqul Huque et al., The Civil Service in Hong Kong. Continuity and Change (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1998), pp. 132-3.
  65. The data are derived from the annual Policy Commitment and Progress Reports for these years, together with “Overview,’ Progress Report. The 1997 Policy Address (Hong Kong: Information Services Department, 1997).
  66. e.g., Chris Yeung, “Politics – Change and the Unchanged,’ in Chris Yeung (ed.), Hong Kong China. the Red Dawn (Sydney: Prentice Hall, 1998), p. 146.
  67. Percy Cradock, “Losing the Plot in Hong Kong,’ Prospect, April 1997, pp. 20-1.
  68. On the relationship between open government and Sino-British negotiations, see the examples cited in Leo F. Goodstadt, “Prospects for the Rule of Law: the Political Dimension,’ in Steve Tsang (ed.), Judicial Independence and the Rule of Law in Hong Kong (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), pp. 188-9
  69. Lau Siu-kai, “Tung Chee-hwa’s Governing Strategy: The Shortfall in Politics,’ in Lau Siu-kai (ed.), The First Tung Chee-hwa Administration. The First Five Years of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2002), pp. 4, 16.
  70. Prime Minister John Major pledged while in Hong Kong “the determination of Britain to be with you in the future, as we have been in the past…Looking to the future, you will not face it alone.’ South China Morning Post, 4 March 1996. See also Sir Richard Evans’ interview, Renmin Ribao, 13 August 2004.
  71. This freedom was conferred by the Basic Law, said the Chinese Government, which stated: “With regard to election of all members of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong SAR by universal suffrage after 2007…it is a question to be decided by the Hong Kong SAR and it needs no guarantee by the Chinese Government.’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Facts about a Few Important Aspects of Sino-British Talks on 1994/95 Electoral Arrangements in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Joint Publishing (H.K.) Co., Ltd., 1994), p. 34. Beijing still claimed the right to intervene in 2004, however. Shao Tianren, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Counsellor, Xinhua News Agency, 7 February 2004.
  72. From the official account, it seems that a breach of the Joint Declaration was not even raised during “a friendly and open exchange of views on issues relating to Hong Kong’ at the London meeting between the Chinese and British Prime Ministers in May 2004. The British statements and official contacts with the Chinese Government on this issue are set out in Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong January-June 2004 (Cm 6292/2004), especially pp. iii, 9, 12, 13.
  73. e.g., Xinhua News Agency 10 March 2004 and Renmin Ribao, 20 February 2004.
  74. Sun Yat-sen, “Address to the Students of Hong Kong University,’ Renditions A Chinese-English Translation Magazine Nos 29 & 30, Spring & Autumn 1988, p. 43