Can Co-optation Win over the Hong Kong People? China's United Front Work in Hong Kong since 1984

Wai Kwok Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the changes in China's Hong Kong policies since 1984, with special reference to united front work, which has included capitalists, industrialists, and former British appointees who have served as advisors and members in various kinds of "consultative" committees. To shed light on united front work in a theoretical way, the organizational concept of "co-optation" is employed. Although Beijing has broadly absorbed Hong Kong's most influential figures, such as business elite, the strategy of co-optation has constituted legitimating and delegitimating impacts on China's Hong Kong policies. This article argues that (1) united front work has led to the dominant participation of a pro-China social and economic elite; (2) lack of accountability of the consultative committee which has formulated unpopular policies has ultimately led to public criticism; and (3) the fragmented nature of the pro-China elite has made it difficult for the Chinese government to impose political conformity and unpopular policies on Hong Kong. The development of united front work in Hong Kong beyond July 1, 1997 will mainly depend on China's oscillating and uncertain political development, the degree of tolerance shown by the Chinese and post-colonial Hong Kong governments toward opposition forces, and the pace of democratization in Hong Kong.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-137
Number of pages36
JournalIssues and Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1997

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

User-Defined Keywords

  • Accountability
  • Co-optation
  • Pro-China elite
  • Representation
  • United front work


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