Hong Kong: Glimmer of Hope

The election in mid June of Donald Tsang as Hong Kong Chief Executive has produced a glimmer of hope that the difficult eight years since Britain returned the territory to China in 1997 may yet end. Tung Cheehwa’s resignation from the post in March – two years before the end of his second five-year term – heralded the first leadership change since the transition. And that change matters to China because of Hong Kong’s economic and political importance. Beijing also hopes to use Hong Kong to convince Taiwan that the One Country, Two Systems policy works, while Taiwan wants to keep the status quo by maintaining its distance from China.

The World Today Published 1 July 2005 Updated 15 October 2020 5 minute READ

James Wing-cheung Chui

Doctoral candidate, London School of Economics

Hong Kong’s economy was, until recently, in the doldrums, with record unemployment. The weak executive-led government produced so many policy failures, including mishandling the SARS virus outbreak, that alienated it from the public. Tung Chee-hwa’s ineptness led Premier Zhu Rongji to complain: ‘We cannot always discuss without decision, and make decisions without execution.’ As the gap between the rich and the poor increases, social cohesion is at an all-time low.

The ill-conceived push to enact a poorly-drafted national security law fuelled suspicions of Beijing. A march by half a million people two years ago forced its withdrawal. The United States State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2004 on China suggested that Hong Kong’s autonomy ‘has been tested severely this year’.

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