Florence Mok

Feb 8, 2024

Covert Colonialism

Governance, Surveillance and Political Culture in British Hong Kong, c.1966-97

Manchester University Press 2023

Florence Mok's book Covert Colonialism: Governance, Surveillance and Political Culture in British Hong Kong, c.1966-97 (Manchester UP, 2023) is timely and exciting for those who are interested in colonial governance and autonomy of the colonial polity. This is a long-ignored area in which colonial historians have made major interventions. Moving away from the existing focus on theories by political scientists and sociologists, this book uses under-exploited archival and unofficial data in London and Hong Kong to construct an empirical study of colonial governance and political culture in Hong Kong during a critical period. From 1966 to 1997, while in mainland China, the Cultural Revolution broke out and caused chaos, in other British colonies beginning or having completed decolonisation, in Hong Kong, the Star Ferry riots in 1966 gave rise to the setup of Town Talk, later MOOD, and then Talking Points, which were used to monitor and construct public opinions and feedback to policy making by the colonial government, thus titled ‘Covert Colonialism’.

With seven cases featuring different communities, Florence shows how Hong Kong has become a democratic polity through these strategies mobilised by the colonial government. Failing to import the Western democratic framework into Hong Kong, the colonial government implemented an indirect way to allow the public to participate in the policymaking process and gradually shift Hong Kong people’s sentiments towards both mainland China and its coloniser. This book challenges the erroneous myth of political apathy and stability in Hong Kong, which was embraced by politicians. It will also generate meaningful discussions and heated debates on comparisons between ‘colonialism’ in different spaces and time: between Hong Kong and other former British colonies; and between colonial and post-colonial Hong Kong.

Florence Mok is a Nanyang Assistant Professor of History at Nanyang Technological University. She is a historian of colonial Hong Kong and modern China, with an interest in environmental history, the Cold War and state-society relations. She received her BA and MA in History from Durham University. She completed her PhD in History at the University of York in 2019. Her doctoral research examined governance and political culture in 1970s Hong Kong. Her postdoctoral project explored Chinese Communist cultural activities in colonial Hong Kong during the Cold War. She is currently studying the history of natural disasters and crisis management.

Bing Wang received her PhD at the University of Leeds in 2020. Her research interests include exploring overseas Chinese cultural identity and critical heritage studies.

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Bing Wang

Bing Wang received her PhD at the University of Leeds in 2020. Her research interests include the exploration of overseas Chinese cultural identity and critical heritage studies.

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