The Umbrella Movement and the Political Apparatus: Understanding “One Country, Two Systems”
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Prior to the Umbrella Movement, there was little reason for people who were not from Hong Kong to care much about its politics, unless, of course, one were a devoted reader of The Economist, which did cover Hong Kong as a former British colony. Alas, my experience in the academy corroborates the former sentiment: when I began studying Christian involvement in Hong Kong’s politics in the late 2000s, nobody was interested. “You have to study Christianity in China,” one advisor said, “because that’s where the jobs are.” The growth of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), especially the explosion of Christianity in China, was what people wanted to talk about. The fascination was tied to the economic spectacle of China’s spectacular urban landscapes, the political force of China’s increasing influence on international relations, the social impact of Chinese immigration to Anglo-American metropolises.1 Indeed, with the recent spate of church buildings being demolished in Wenzhou and crosses being taken down in Zhejiang Province, China proper is still the only thing in the Greater China region that everyone wants to talk about. In this context, Christianity was fascinating because it told the story of China’s human rights record as well as missionary impulses still alive and well in the West.2 Another faculty committee member told me: “I know people who go over to China and go through networks in Hong Kong. You should follow them on a missions trip and do an ethnography on them.” Hong Kong, it turns out, was only interesting as it was tied to doing research on China proper. The local politics of Hong Kong and the engagement of Christians with them were not on my Anglo-American advisors’ radar screens. When I finally did get myself over to Hong Kong in 2010, people there confirmed to me that, as an Asian American, I was ill equipped to study China and Hong Kong’s relations with the motherland. Indeed, theologians and social scientists in Hong Kong were already studying Christianity in China, and church leaders were getting heavily involved in various kinds of missionary projects.3 They told me to go home.