Hong Kong



Once a British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997. Recently, Hong Kong has erupted into violent conflict between the Chinese government and protesters objecting to increased government controls. Join Active Minds as we tell the story of Hong Kong, past, present, and future.

Key Lecture Points

  • Hong Kong is experiencing its worst civil disturbances since it was turned over from British to Chinese control in 1997. Beginning in March 2019, demonstrators organized marches, protests, and strikes in response to a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed certain Hong Kong criminals to be extradited to mainland China.
  • While initially organized in direct response to the extradition bill, the protests have transformed into general pro-democracy demonstrations. These protests are the latest in a long line of civil disturbances that have affected Hong Kong since the transition of power. These most recent protests are the most extensive and have lasted the longest of any protests.
  • The 2019 protests have called the efficacy of the “one nation, two systems” into question. District elections in November 2019 saw pro-democracy candidates win strong support.  Nonetheless, the Beijing-supported leadership of Carrie Lam has been maintained in Hong Kong with Chinese president Xi Jinping praising Lam for her “courage and responsibility” and “unwavering determination to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests.”
  • The Hong Kong protests have strained the already fraught relationship between China and the United States. The Chinese-American relationship has been negatively affected by series of tariffs placed on Chinese imports into the United States by the Trump administration. In November 2019, Congress passed in a bi-partisan vote The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. This act reaffirmed the United State’s belief that Hong Kong retains sufficient autonomy from China to retain special trading relationships with the United States.

Exploration Questions

  • What are the root causes of the most recent round of protests? Is it frustration with the Hong Kong government, fear of Chinese influence, socioeconomic issues like lack of affordable housing and wealth inequality?
  • What will happen to Hong Kong in 2047? Will the “one country, two systems” policy survive until then?
  • What, if any, should the role of the international community be in the Hong Kong question? Is this an example of an international or a domestic conflict?

Reflective Questions

  • Has anyone been to Hong Kong? What was it like? If you’ve been to China as well, was Hong Kong different?
  • What would you like to see the United States government do in regards to Hong Kong?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • Dapiran, Antony. City of Protest: a Recent History of Dissent in Hong Kong. Penguin Books, 2017. 100 pages.  The author describes Hong Kong’s recent history of civil disturbances, particularly in regards to its relationship to China.
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  • Kong, Tsung-gan. Umbrella: a Political Tale from Hong Kong. Pema Press, 2017. 668 pages.  This account by activist Kong Tsung-gan details the factors that caused the massive protests, the reason behind them, and what the protesters have achieved so far.
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  • Welsh, Frank. A History of Hong Kong. HarperCollins Publishers, 1997.  688 pages.  Considered the most comprehensive Hong Kong history book written in English, Welsh recounts the country’s origins from a “barren land” from the British occupation in 1859 until its handover to China in 1997.
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