The best books on Hong Kong’s history and politics

The Books I Picked & Why

Making Hong Kong China: The Rollback of Human Rights and the Rule of Law

By Michael C. Davis

Making Hong Kong China: The Rollback of Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Why this book?

Before Hong Kong people embraced the Sino-British agreement to cede Hong Kong’s sovereignty from Britain to China, China promised the people of Hong Kong they would enjoy a high degree of autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework so that their way of life and its socio-economic and political system would remain unchanged for 50 years, This ended in 2020, before the halfway point of the promised 50 years, when China imposed a National Security Law on Hong Kong that criminalized actions or speeches that people in Hong Kong were free to pursue hitherto. Davis provides a meticulous account of how China reneged its promises and rolled back human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong.


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For The Love Of Hong Kong: A Memoir From My City Under Siege

By Hana Meihan Davis

For The Love Of Hong Kong: A Memoir From My City Under Siege

Why this book?

This is a short and very personal account by a young journalist born and brought up in Hong Kong.  As her parents are academics who had also played activist roles in Hong Kong, Hana got to know some of Hong Kong’s democracy activists and fighters from a very young age. She writes with passion about why the young people of Hong Kong fight for democracy in Chinese Hong Kong, where the prospect of success was very dim, if not non-existent. If you are interested in how Hong Kong’s young people think about democracy, this is a good starting point.


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Myself a Mandarin

By Austin Coates

Myself a Mandarin

Why this book?

This is a beautifully written and charming old book by a colonial administrator, who left government service young and turned to writing. It provides a vivid portrait of how a District Officer in the New Territories worked in the 1950s, when modernity was beginning to change the traditional way of life in old rural Hong Kong that was fast disappearing. It shows how a young dedicated colonial administrator being tasked to act as the ‘father and mother’ for the local Chinese community found his feet and try to do the best he could.


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The Last Governor: Chris Patten and the Handover of Hong Kong

By Jonathan Dimbleby

The Last Governor: Chris Patten and the Handover of Hong Kong

Why this book?

This is a highly readable book which portrays vividly the last British Governor, Chris Patten’s valiant efforts to do right by the people of Hong Kong in the final years of British rule. The author writes from the perspective of a liberal journalist sympathetic to the predicaments of the last Governor. Patten’s efforts were well received by many locals. Many showed appreciation by taking their families to colonial relics to capture their fond memories of colonial Hong Kong just before the British flag was lowered the last time, as Hong Kong was ordered to celebrate its return to China in 1997. It provides the background to why so many Hong Kong people seek refuge overseas after China reneged on its promises when it imposed the National Security Law in 2020.


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A City Mismanaged: Hong Kong's Struggle for Survival

By Leo F. Goodstadt

A City Mismanaged: Hong Kong's Struggle for Survival

Why this book?

This is a cogent book on how Hong Kong’s Government has squandered a magnificent inheritance, a vibrant, energetic, and entrepreneurial people willing to engage with the government by neglecting their social rights. Goodstadt does so by examining housing, medical services, and education policy, as well as Hong Kong’s all important relationship with Mainland China. It is a readable piece of serious scholarship by someone who had served as the head of the government’s Central Policy Unit for over a decade in British Hong Kong. It explains the background to the social discontent that underpinned the massive protests of 2019, which triggered a dramatic change in China’s policy towards Hong Kong.


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