A Historical Perspective on Hong Kong Autonomy: Traditions of British Imperialism, Maritime Enclave and Contending Views of British Interest

Part of the Studies in the Political Economy of Public Policy book series (PEPP)


This chapter tries to go beyond the formal constitutional order in deciphering the relationship between London and the colony before 1997. It first contextualizes the interaction between the two parties into the British imperial tradition and the distinctive role of the colony in the Empire. The consequent remoteness and indifference to the routine business on the ground provided ample space for the man on the spot to run the colony. It also reveals that autonomy has to be earned and that central to the colony’s success in minimizing close monitoring by London was her proven competence in administration and financial management. The actual negotiations were, however, determined by a number of variables such as political contingencies, personality and the proclivities of key players, calculation (or miscalculation) by the decision makers and, last but not the least, firmness of the sovereign power in asserting its views. And it is also important to count the existence of a solid foundation of mutual trust beneath all these encounters, including disagreements, between the two sides. The outcome of these exchanges and altercations was hardly preordained. The constitutional framework of subordination prescribed for the colony tells only half of the story.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public PolicyCity University of Hong KongHong KongChina

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