Hong Kong Unraveled: Historicizing Current Crisis and Imagining Possible Futures
3: Modernization, Decolonization and Democratization in Hong Kong
Friday, March 25, 2022
3:30pm – 5:00pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 313A
Eliza W.Y. Lee
University of Hong Kong, United States
Earlier studies have regarded Hong Kong as a deviant case in modernization theory in that modernization in the 1970s did not bring about democratization. On the other hand, this assertion does not square with the more recent literature that recognizes postmaterialist shift as a crucial factor affecting societal mobilization for democracy in the postcolonial years. This paper critically reexamines the impact of modernization on value change through situating Hong Kong’s modernization process in the historical constellation of colonialism, political transition, and postcolonial development.
Successful modernization under colonial rule was fostered by three integral components: the transformation of the colonial state to a public service state, market-led economic growth, and protracted decolonization. Together, they demobilized anti-colonial resistance but provided the space for the formation of a civic self and a burgeoning civil society. The political transition leading up to 1997 saw the peculiar combination of rapid civil society development, the rise in liberal rights consciousness, and the under-mobilization of the prodemocracy movement. The Asian Financial Crisis, which coincided with the sovereignty handover, destabilized the materialist ideology. The younger generation, in particular, constructed new political subjectivity through articulating the relationship between postmaterialism and postcolonialism. In sum, Hong Kong represents a special case in the comparative democratization of Asian late industrializers due to the unique temporal order of modernization, decolonization, and the articulation of a “native” identity.