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Institutional Reform 1982–88

  • Shiu-hing Lo

Abstract

The year 1982 marked a watershed in Hong Kong’s democratisation. First of all, direct elections were held for the local advisory institution, District Boards, which were established in accordance with a government consultative document in 1980. Moreover, the Sino-British negotiation on Hong Kong’s political future began in 1982, when the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited Beijing. The Sino-British negotiation had an important bearing on democratisation in Hong Kong; it forced the British policy-makers to use democratic reforms as a means by which the promises of the Sino-British agreement — ‘Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong’ and ‘a high degree of autonomy’ for the Special Administrative Region after 1997 — might be fulfilled. In brief, the Sino-British negotiation on Hong Kong’s future suddenly led to a ‘democratic opening’ in the colony during the 1980s.

Keywords

Institutional Reform Green Paper Political Reform Direct Election Democratic Reform 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Green Paper: A Pattern of District Administration in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Government Printer, June 1980), pp. 5–11. The District Advisory Boards were set up to tap the opinions of the rural people. The Boards, chaired by District Officers, advised the government on matters such as public work, environment, cultural and recreational activities. See Ian Scott, ‘Administrative Growth and Change in the New Territories’, in Leung Chi-keung, J. W. Cushman, Wang Gangwu, eds., Hong Kong: Dilemmas of Growth (Australia: Australian National University, 1980), pp. 105–106.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Rosanna Chan, Is the Hong Kong District Board a Channel for Popular Citizen Participation? (Hong Kong: Research and Resources Press, 1982), p. 77. The Mutual Aid Committees were formed in 1973 to organise residents in managing security and sanitation in every building. Before the Mutual Aid Committees were set up, the government in 1971 sent a delegation to learn from the experience of Singapore where the ruling People’s Action Party introduced institutions such as Citizens’ Consultative Committees and People’s Association. See Pai Shing Semi-Monthly, no. 5 (August 5, 1981), p. 10.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    See Judith Brown, Modern India: The Origins of an Asian Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 357. For the development of panchayati raj after India became independent,Google Scholar
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    John Walden, Excellency, Your Gap is Showing (Hong Kong: Corporate Communications, 1983), p. 79.Google Scholar
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  9. 22.
    Quoted in K. K. Chandha, ed., The MacLehose Years, 1971–1982 (Hong Kong: South China Morning Post, April 1982), p. 10.Google Scholar
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    Felix Patrikeeff, Mouldering Pearl: Hong Kong at a Crossroads (London: George Philip, 1989), p. 121. Also see Steve Vines, ‘UK Blunders that Cost Hong Kong’, Ming Pao, February 7, 1991, p. 53. For a Hong Kong Chinese view,Google Scholar
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    Lau Siu-kai and Kuan Hsin-chi, ‘The 1985 District Board Elections in Hong Kong: The Limits of Political Mobilisation in a Dependent Polity’, Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, vol. 25, no. 1 (March 1987), p. 84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    The former senior member of the Exco and Legco, Sir Sze-yuen Chung, said that officials in China told him about this, see Asiaweek, June 1, 1984. According to a former editor of one pro-China news-paper in Hong Kong, the former director of the PRC’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Liao Chengzhi, told him that MacLehose’s attempt to raise the 1997 question during the meeting with Deng in 1979 actually made China determine to recover its sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997. See Sing Tao Jih Pao (Vancouver edition), January 22, 1996, p. D9. Liao accompanied Deng when the latter met with Governor MacLehose, see Robert Cottrell, The End of Hong Kong: The Secret Diplomacy of Iniperial Retreat (London: John Murray, 1993), p. 54.Google Scholar
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    On the question of abandoning the British sovereignty over Hong Kong, Margaret Thatcher said that both Sir Geoffrey Howe, the Foreign Secretary at that time, and the Foreign Office urged her to ’concede early in the talks that British administration would not continue’. There appeared to be opinion differences between Thatcher on the one hand and Howe and the Foreign Office on the other hand regarding the British policy toward Hong Kong during the Sino-British negotiation in 1983. See Margaret Thatcher, Margaret Thatcher: The Downing Street Years (New York: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 489. After a sharp fall of the Hong Kong dollar and a serious confidence crisis in September 1983, Thatcher eventually ‘reluctantly decided that we would have to concede not just sovereignty but administration to the Chinese’ (p. 490).Google Scholar
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    Lo Shiu-hing, ‘The Problem of Perception and Sino-British Relations over Hong Kong’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, vol. 13, no. 2 (September 1991), pp. 200–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    John Walden, Excellency, Your Gap is Growing (Hong Kong: Noble Company, 1987), p. 73Google Scholar
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    David Bonavia, Hong Kong 1997: The Final Settlement (Hong Kong: South China Morning Post, 1985), p. 144. Also see SCMP, December 7, 1984, p. 2. In an earlier ‘debate’ in the House of Commons in May 1984, an observer even wrote: ‘Judging by the debate in the House of Commons on 16 May 1984 the answer could be a fudged sell out. The debate ended without a vote because of the basic agreement between the political parties, namely that Britain had no option but to trust the good faith and pragmatism of the Chinese Communists’.Google Scholar
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    Quoted in Peter Harris, ‘Hong Kong Confronts 1997: An Assessment of the Sino-British Agreement’, Pacific Affairs, vol. 59, no. 1 (Spring 1986), p. 67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 77.
    Tsim Tak-lung, ‘The Implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration’, in Richard Wong and Joseph Cheng, eds., The Other Hong Kong Report, 1990 (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1990), p. 133. According to Tsim, the insertion ‘was so late in the day when this point was accepted by the Chinese that an earlier draft of the Joint Declaration which a Hong Kong newspaper — The Express — had gotten possession of and published on the morning of 26 September 1984 did not carry this important provision’. Walden believed that the provision was inserted at the last moment. As a result, ‘the Chinese felt that they were tricked by the British. But the Chinese wanted to keep everything alright and so they kept quiet, refraining from criticising the draft agreement’. Interview with John Walden, op. cit.Google Scholar
  25. 83.
    H. K. Lamb, A Date With Fate (Hong Kong: Ted Thomas, 1984), p. 213.Google Scholar
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    Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1976), p. 143.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lo Shiu-hing 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shiu-hing Lo
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Hong KongChina

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