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The Law and Politics of the Struggle for Universal Suffrage in Hong Kong, 2013–15

  • Albert H.Y. CHEN (a1)

Post-1997 Hong Kong under the constitutional framework of “One Country Two Systems” has a political system that may be characterized as a “semi-democracy.” Hong Kong’s constitutional instrument—the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China—provides that the ultimate goal of the evolution of Hong Kong’s political system is the election of its Chief Executive by universal suffrage. Since 2003, a democracy movement has developed in Hong Kong that campaigned for the speedy introduction of such universal suffrage. In 2007, the Chinese government announced that universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong may be introduced in 2017. In 2014, the Chinese government announced further details of the electoral model. The model was rejected by Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in 2015, with the result that the election of the Chief Executive in 2017 would not materialize. This article seeks to tell this story of Hong Kong’s quest for democratization, focusing particularly on the context and background of the “Occupy Central” Movement that emerged in 2013 and its aftermath. It suggests that the struggle for universal suffrage in the election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive in 2017 and the obstacles it faced reveal the underlying tensions behind, and the contradictions inherent in, the concept and practice of “One Country, Two Systems,” particularly the conflict between the Communist Party-led socialist political system in mainland China and the aspirations towards Western-style liberal democracy on the part of “pan-democrats” and their supporters in Hong Kong.

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Cheng Chan Lan Yue Professor of Constitutional Law, Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong. The author is grateful to the anonymous reviewer for useful comments that led to the improvement of this article. Correspondence to Albert Chen, Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong. E-mail address:

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Hsin-Chi Kuan (1998) “Escape from Politics: Hong Kong’s Predicament of Political Development.” 21 International Journal of Public Administration 14231448.

William H. Overholt (2001) “Hong Kong: The Perils of Semidemocracy.” 12 Journal of Democracy 518.

Yeuk-yuen Shiu (蕭若元) (2015) 《香港大撕裂》(Hong Kong Torn Apart), Hong Kong: Hong Kong New Media Ltd., in two volumes.

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Asian Journal of Law and Society
  • ISSN: 2052-9015
  • EISSN: 2052-9023
  • URL: /core/journals/asian-journal-of-law-and-society
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