From Legalism to Civil Disobedience: Repertoire Changes and the Collapse of a Hegemonic Regime

I-Lun Shih, university of Michigan

This paper is built upon Charles Tilly’s macro- and politico-economic theory of repertoire of contention to discuss how and why there was a delay in repertoire changes in Hong Kong, as the society underwent rapid socioeconomic and political changes during the 1990s, but its political repertoires remained unchanged until the mid-2010s. Socioeconomic changes, such as deindustrialization and financialization, occurred during the 1990s in a short period of time; political changes occurred in 1997 when the regime transitioned from Britain to China, and the Chinese government pushed against the ongoing greater democratic reform that the colonial authorities started. Hong Kong’s democratization has thus been “protracted” since the 1990s. To answer this delay puzzle, I use secondary sources (e.g., memoirs and government statistics) and primary sources (e.g., in-depth interviews), arguing that we should examine how the political and socioeconomic changes translated into three social processes. The three processes, the sustaining of the legalistic hegemonic regime, the increasing economic assimilation, and consequently, “the ubiquitous presence of China” in the form of capillary power, led to a “moment of madness” where the first large-scale civil disobedience in Hong Kong happened. To respond to the emerging civil disobedience protests, the Hong Kong and Chinese governments chose to use police violence and mass arrest, ending the legalistic hegemonic regime that existed for decades. Ultimately, the shift from hegemonic to coercive regime transformed Hong Kong’s political repertoire, from legalistic ones to unlawful ones.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 197. Movements and Conflicts in World-Historical Perspectives