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  • The First Decade: The Hong Kong SAR in Retrospective and Introspective Perspectives ed. by Yeung Yue-man
  • Eilo Wing-yat Yu (bio)
Yeung Yue-man, editor. The First Decade: The Hong Kong SAR in Retrospective and Introspective Perspectives. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2008. xxii, 432 pp. Paperback $23.00, isbn 978-962-996-357-6.

This volume is an outcome of a conference summarizing and reflecting on Hong Kong’s development, ten years after its return to the Chinese motherland. The chapters focus on assessing the extent to which the one country, two systems model implemented by the Chinese government for the resumption of Hong Kong sovereignty has been actualized, as well as the achievement of and challenges faced by Hong Kong as China’s first special administrative region, known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

The initial chapters describe the understanding of the development of Hong Kong after the handover among those from the outside. From the Chinese perspective, Jin Qingguo explains how implementation of the one country, two systems concept has been successful in terms of ensuring the smooth transfer of sovereignty, the establishment of HKSAR administration by the Hong Kong people, the promotion of economic and political stability, and the prevention of exploitation by the Chinese government. Based on a review of news reporting of Hong Kong by U.S. media, Janet Salaff and Arent Greve conclude that Hong Kong’s reversion has not led to deterioration of rule of law, as was described by Fortune magazine in 1995, having found that Beijing not only adheres to the Hong Kong Basic Law but also tolerates freedom of speech in the territory. Similarly, Michel Yahuda indicates that the British government is satisfied with Hong Kong’s development after the handover in terms of the establishment of stability. Nevertheless, he acknowledges observation of latent problems in Hong Kong, such as the weakening of freedom of expression and of the judicial branch, as well as of the increased intervention of Beijing in Hong Kong affairs. Yahuda explains that despite its awareness of these problems, the British government is more concerned with its own relationship with China and does not want to anger Beijing by criticizing its governance of Hong Kong.

As an outsider, but one with close ties to Hong Kong, Wang Gungwu, vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong from 1986 to 1995, clearly identifies the Hong Kong people’s psychological gap regarding the return to their motherland. He claims that the British fomented a false hope among the Hong Kong people regarding the extent of local autonomy and democracy that they would have after the handover. He also argues that in addressing the endogenous psychological resistance of the Hong Kong people, Beijing has erroneously pushed the idea of national identity using a straight and hard approach, which has widened the Hong Kong–mainland gap. After Wang presents his arguments, Wong Siu-lun provides an in-depth analysis of the emergence of a strong local identity after the handover before illustrating how the Hong Kong–mainland identity clash triggered governing [End Page 502] problems in the HKSAR. Together, the chapters by Wang and Wong accurately and precisely crystallize the nature of the governance problem in Hong Kong after the handover.

In his chapter, Lau Siu-kai, a former head of the Central Policy Unit, a think tank of the HKSAR government, explains Beijing’s reorientation of its Hong Kong policy toward greater participation in Hong Kong affairs and greater promotion of Hong Kong–mainland integration. However, he also outlines eight basic contradictions in the HKSAR that have led to the reluctance of the Hong Kong people to accept the new political order after reversion. Readers will find this chapter insightful for the understanding it provides regarding Beijing’s reorientation of its Hong Kong policy.

The authors of the various chapters that address public policy and economics tend to conclude that Hong Kong–mainland cooperation is essential for development. Regarding environmental protection, Ng Cho-nam and Lee Yok-shiu argue that Hong Kong cannot control air pollution independently and must cooperate with mainland authorities to control the emission of pollutants in the Pearl River...