2022 Undergraduate Research Showcase


Hong Kong’s Democratic Movement: A “Country” in Turmoil

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Dr. Christopher Courtheyn


Since July 1, 1997, there has been a push for democracy within Hong Kong. As the years have progressed, this movement has become more urgent and in 2019, violence levels within Hong Kong peaked as protester turnout reached historic levels. Taking a qualitative approach, this paper identifies and analyzes the national, regional and global drivers of the Hong Kong-Mainland China conflict. Through document review, content and discourse analysis, I determined several key factors that are driving and exacerbating the conflict. On a national level, these factors include the structure of Hong Kong’s national government and the rising housing inequality within the region. Regional drivers of conflict include the historic relationship between Mainland China and the British Empire, the subsequent “One Country, Two Systems” Policy, and the interdependent relationship between the two “countries” within the realm of waterway economics and politics. Globally, it is imperative to consider the role of the United States and United Kingdom as foreign actors in the conflict as well as consider the ways in which Hong Kong reflects larger global trends such as increased youth activism and the struggles of periphery regions in conflict with larger, dominant nation-states. The findings of this crisis analysis suggest that Hong Kong and Mainland China are inextricably linked on several dimensions, thus making Hong Kong sovereignty an unsustainable, immediate solution. Failure to acknowledge these complexities when directing U.S. foreign policy in East Asia could lead to infeasible, inapt solutions that only exacerbate tensions in the region. As such, I conclude this analysis with recommendations for U.S. action that aim to de-escalate civil unrest within Hong Kong while also keeping in mind the importance of US-China relations.

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