Publication Date



Stephen Angle, Peter Rutland


College of Social Studies


English (United States)


Hong Kong was handed over to China from British colonial rule in 1997 under "One Country, Two Systems," a constitutional arrangement that ensured the city's separate executive, legislative, legal and economic systems from China. Since the handover, democrats of the city have sought to expand the government's representation to fulfill the Basic Law's (a constitutional document drafted in accordance to "One Country, Two Systems") promise for people to enjoy the rights to elect their Chief Executive—the city's leader—and the legislature. Their efforts culminated in the Umbrella Movement in 2014, a democratic movement that demanded "genuine universal suffrage" for the Chief Executive. I argue that the Umbrella Movement became as much a localist project concerned with identity creation as it was a democratic movement, as it created for Hong Kong a new civic identity alongside demands for the universal suffrage of the city's leader. In the wake of the movement, democrats adopted a localist outlook and became more concerned with protecting Hong Kong's identity, which effectively transformed their previous fight for democracy into a larger struggle to protect the local identity. At this time, new narratives of the Hong Kong identity pervaded society and even competed with the dominance of the Umbrella Movement's civic identity. In the Chief Executive election campaign in 2017, the first since the Umbrella Movement failed to achieve breakthroughs in electoral reforms, the candidate John Tsang received the most support from democrats in the city despite his conservative views on democratic development. I argue that John Tsang's popularity among democrats was emblematic of the city's wider shift from the "battle for democracy to the battle for Hong Kong." During the campaign, Tsang produced a compelling representation of Hong Kong that successfully appealed to democrats without necessarily invoking their democratic claims. This thesis, therefore, attempts to understand Tsang's rise by charting the development of localism since its beginnings in 2006 to 2017, when the Chief Executive election transpired.



© Copyright is owned by author of this document