Public Opinion on Hong Kong’s Transition

Michael E. DeGolyer

    Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapter


    The importance of public opinion in debates over institutional reform can scarcely be underestimated. Yet research in Hong Kong, particularly into politically oriented public opinion, was seldom pursued until the 1980s. This is perhaps a consequence of the widespread perception that the Hong Kong Chinese are politically apathetic. In The Government and Politics of Hong Kong, the current standard textbook, Norman Miners opened his chapter on ‘Chinese Attitudes and British Rule’ by commenting, ‘During the years from the end of the Second World War to the early 1980s the vast majority of the Chinese population of Hong Kong were completely apathetic to the business of government and showed no desire to participate in any form of political activity’ (Miners, 1991, p. 32; Lau and Kuan, 1988, p. 70). Ian Scott also noted ‘... the Hong Kong public has traditionally distanced itself from politics and from government’ (Kwok, Leung and Scott, 1992, p. 21). However, at least since 1989, when nearly a million Hong Kong residents twice marched in the streets in protest at the events in Tiananmen Square, scholars have acknowledged that many, if not most, Hong Kong people have changed from passive objects of dispute between London and Beijing into active participants in the debates over their future.1 Ming Chan has noted, for example, that, as a consequence of Tiananmen, Hong Kong people ‘were transformed almost overnight from apolitical and apathetic residents of a colony to citizens of a threatened community committed to preserve their freedom and fight for their rights’ (M. K. Chan, 1991, p. 18). While this overstates the reality of both the so-called apolitical past and of the present, Chinese officials have made persistent attacks over the ‘politicizing’ of Hong Kong, accusing the British of making it a ‘political city’ (South China Morning Post (SCMP), 7 October 1993; Guo, 1994, pp. 14–16; Zhou, 1994, pp. 16–17).
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationInstitutional Change and the Political Transition in Hong Kong
    EditorsIan Scott
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
    Number of pages35
    ISBN (Electronic)9781349262960
    ISBN (Print)9780333692455
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 1998

    Publication series

    NameInternational Political Economy Series
    ISSN (Print)2662-2483
    ISSN (Electronic)2662-2491

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Public Opinion
    • Chinese Government
    • Survey Method
    • Transition Project
    • Chinese Communist Party


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