In This Review

City on the Edge: Hong Kong Under Chinese Rule
City on the Edge: Hong Kong Under Chinese Rule
By Ho-fung Hung
Cambridge University Press, 2022, pp.

A Hong Kong native and distinguished sociologist, Hung offers a penetrating analysis of the city’s evolution from a politically neutral commercial gateway to China to a political community resisting mainland control. Over decades as a “super special free-trade zone” and a “cultural supermarket,” the city developed a distinctive way of life. Chinese authorities came to view this as a threat after many Hong Kong people—including some members of the Chinese Communist Party—supported the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing. From the 1990s on, mainland-linked financial elites increased their grip on the city’s economy and allied with local political elites to ensure loyalty to Beijing’s policies. Hung traces the parallel evolution of Beijing’s determination to make Hong Kong’s people accept assimilation into China and the local development of a proud, separate identity. The two forces clashed in a series of mass demonstrations in the 2010s, which ended with Beijing’s imposition of a draconian national security law in 2020. Hung insists that the struggle for the future of Hong Kong has not ended. But his analysis of how Hong Kong arrived at this bleak state is so persuasive that it doesn’t leave the reader with much hope.