The situation in Hong Kong today is not dissimilar to the moral predicaments that Central and Eastern Europe had endured during the Communist era. Then, as now, state oppression and intimidation aim not only at generating a pervasive sense of learned helplessness in society but also incentivising political opportunism. This paper begins with a thorough examination of the relevance of the open society against the background of the regime’s all-out attacks on the pro-democracy opposition and the civil society in the name national security following unprecedented protests in 2019. Civil society organisations are in retreat under the pressure of autocratic rule, but the normative appeal of the open society as a custodian for the city’s distinctive values and identity is expected to grow against the backdrop of the moral and institutional decay of the official, ‘Orwellian’, realm. It then seeks to explain why the barriers against norm entrepreneurship – individual and collective actions resisting moral decline and decay – are not insurmountable as they first appeared. Three decades after the end of Communism in Europe, the moral commitment to the open society serves as rallying point against the rise of illiberal democracies or electoral authoritarianism. In any case, autocrats are not invincible and there is nothing inevitable about the authoritarian backlash.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Political Science and International Relations
- Hong Kong
- norm entrepreneurship
- open society