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Civic localism, anti-mainland localism, and independence: The changing pattern of identity politics in Hong Kong special administrative region

Alvin Y. So (Division of Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
Ping Lam Ip (Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong)

Asian Education and Development Studies

ISSN: 2046-3162

Article publication date: 13 December 2019

Issue publication date: 31 March 2020

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to trace the changing pattern of identity politics in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). It shows that in response to the massive urban renewal projects in the 2000s, “civic localism” in the form of cultural preservation movement emerged to protect local community culture against the government-business hegemony. However, due to the deepening of social integration between Hong Kong and the mainland, a new “anti-mainland localism” emerged in the 2010s against the influx of mainlanders. In 2015–2016, as a result of Beijing’s active interference in Hong Kong affairs, localism is further transformed to Hong Kong “independence.”

Design/methodology/approach

This paper uses a historical methodology to trace the changing pattern of identity politics in Hong Kong after it becomes a special administrative region of China in 1997.

Findings

It shows how the interaction among the following three factors has shaped the pattern of localism in Hong Kong: macro historical-structural context, social movement dynamics and the response of Hong Kong and mainland government.

Practical implications

This paper argues that Beijing’s hardline policy toward Hong Kong localism may work in the short run to all push the pro-independence activities underground. However, unless the structural contradiction of the HKSAR is resolved, it seems likely that anti-mainland localism and Hong Kong independence sentiment and movement will come back with a vengeance at a later stage.

Originality/value

The literature tends to discuss Hong Kong localism in very general terms and fails to reveal its changing nature. This paper contributes by distinguishing three different forms of localism: civic localism in the mid-2000s, anti-mainland in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and independence after 2016. It shows how the macro historical-structural transformation, social movement dynamics and the responses of the Hong Kong SAR government and Beijing government have led to the changes of civic localism to anti-mainland localism, and finally to independence.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This paper is supported by a Research Grants Council General Research Fund, 2016–2018, entitled “Anti-Mainland Protests in Hong Kong: A Social Movement Analysis.”

Citation

So, A.Y. and Ip, P.L. (2020), "Civic localism, anti-mainland localism, and independence: The changing pattern of identity politics in Hong Kong special administrative region", Asian Education and Development Studies, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 255-267. https://doi.org/10.1108/AEDS-02-2018-0043

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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