A Tale of Two Systems: Explaining Chinese Policy Responses towards Hong Kong’s Democrats in 2014-16

Yeung, Priscilla [Browse]
Senior thesis


Christensen, Thomas J. [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Politics [Browse]
Class year
Restrictions note
Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note
The Umbrella Movement of 2014 brought tens of thousands of people to the streets of Hong Kong to protest, demanding democracy and universal suffrage from the Chinese Central government. The picture of defiant protesters wielding umbrellas to shield themselves against tear gas captured headlines across the world. Images of peaceful pro-democracy protests that lasted for 75 days, taking place within the borders of the Chinese Communist Party-controlled authoritarian system, were broadcast around the world. Reporters pointed out the echoes of the 1989 pro-democracy student protests in China that eventually led to the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4. So why did the Chinese government tolerate this large-scale protest after the initial crackdown? In this thesis, I examine the competing theories for explaining Beijing’s policy responses towards Hong Kong’s democrats. To evaluate theories of ideological differences, leaders’ limitations, and national security concerns, I use four case studies of actions taken by Hong Kong’s democrats: the 2014 Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign, the 2014 Umbrella Movement, the 2016 candidacy of pro-independence Legco candidates, and the 2016 oath-taking controversy. In doing so, this thesis argues that national security concerns are the main factor determining China’s policy responses towards Hong Kong’s democrats. In light of this national security paradigm, this thesis presents reasons for Beijing’s increasingly blatant interference in Hong Kong’s politics and puts forward policy recommendations for how the Chinese Central Government, the Hong Kong Government, and Hong Kong’s democrats can navigate this national security paradigm to best achieve their aims regarding democracy in Hong Kong.

Supplementary Information