Excerpt from my working book analysis on the topic of “Power Politics and the HK Democracy Movement”

Power politics, as defined by Merriam Webster as politics based primarily on the use of power (as military and economic strength) as a coercive force rather than on ethical precepts, plays an influential role in Hong Kong and in relations between China and other nations, when concerning the Hong Kong democracy movement. During the 1997 handover, Hong Kong was experiencing negative effects from the Asian financial crisis and the economic support of China took precedent over democratization (Cheng, 260). In effect, China was able to exert its authority over the region by amending the Public Order Ordinance right before the British relinquished their power (Cheng, 260). This act demonstrated China’s interests in keeping Hong Kong under its control although they had agreed to the British requesting a promise for democracy.

Hong Kongers’ political participation tends to draw responses from large powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom (Cheng, 347). These responses from high government officials were made after the public demanded statements on the situation in Hong Kong after being informed about the recent student protests. These responses drew criticisms from China as they argued that foreign governments reporting on the matter is an infringement upon their state sovereignty. For example, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry made a brief statement on October 2nd, 2014, in response to the police and student clashes during protests in Hong Kong, where he reiterated Washington support for universal suffrage. In response, the Chinese foreign minister asserted that Hong Kong affairs were Chinese internal affairs and asked that they respect China’s sovereignty.

The pro-democracy camps in Hong Kong have long been criticized for being seen as promoting a “leaderless” political movement. This popular criticism of the democracy camps makes them appear to be weak or illegitimate political powers to some. From personal observation during the July 1st rallies in 2014, it was clear that there were no central figures leading the debate but instead they were collectivist groups displaying related grievances against the HKSAR government. Cheng predicts that if the Chief Executive is elected on the basis of universal suffrage in 2017 then their would be increased incentives for party development, thus paving the way for key figures to make an impact on the community (Cheng, xxvi). It is crucial for democracy to be initiated in order for political groups to develop into full fledged organized and legitimate bodies, able to serve the public.

  • Cheng, Yushuo. New Trends of Political Participation in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: City U of Hong Kong, 2014. Print.

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