Freedom Undone: The Assault on Liberal Values and Institutions in Hong Kong (Michael C. Davis)

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AAS Asia Shorts book series. Paperback print ISBN: 9781952636448. E-Book ISBN: 9781952636455. 280 pages.

What happens when liberal constitutional institutions are undone? Can Freedom survive the loss of separation of powers with the associated legal and political accountability? The Chinese Communist Party has been at the forefront in its disdain for liberal institutions and promoting illiberal alternatives. This disdain placed Hong Kong people on the frontlines of the global struggle for freedom. Since its handover from Britain, Hong Kong has felt the brunt of China’s illiberal agenda, recently with increased intensity since the crackdown in 2019 and Beijing’s imposition of a National Security Law in 2020. Thousands have been jailed and a city famous for vigorous protests has been silenced. Professor Michael Davis, a close observer who taught human rights and development in the city for three decades, takes us on the constitutional journey of both the city’s vigorous defense of freedom and its repressive undoing—a painful loss for Hong Kong and a lesson for the world.

Succinct, accessible and informative, Michael Davis combines local and legal knowledge to tell a momentous story about the demise of the rule of law and human rights culture in Hong Kong. It offers the first systematic assessment of the National Security Law’s impacts on the city’s possible trajectories ahead. Anyone interested in Hong Kong and the global advance of illiberalism should find this an essential read. — Ching Kwan Lee, author of Hong Kong: Global China’s Restive Frontier

Freedom Undone is a painful account of Hong Kong’s tragic journey from a free society to an outpost of China’s autocratic rule. Michael Davis’s penetrating analysis of the events after the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997 reveals how the Chinese Communist Party’s political paranoia and ideological hostility to liberalism culminated in the ignominious end of the ‘one country, two systems’ model in 2020 and obliterated the regime’s own credibility. This is the most authoritative and illuminating work on one of the darkest pages in Chinese history. — Minxin Pei, Claremont McKenna College

A generation ago some predicted that the British ‘handover’ meant the death of Hong Kong as we knew it. The dynamic and rather free UK colony has not died, of course, but it has been profoundly transformed into a rather sluggish and definitely unfree de facto Chinese Communist colony. How did that happen and why? Michael Davis tells the complex story in riveting detail and offers a political-legal analysis that is as enlightening as it is sobering. — Jerome A. Cohen, Founding Director Emeritus, US-Asia Law Institute, New York University

Michael C. Davis, long a professor at the University of Hong Kong, where he taught courses on human rights and constitutional development until the fall of 2020, is currently a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Senior Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asia Institute at Columbia University, and a Professor of Law and International Affairs at O.P. Jindal Global University in India. He also enjoys research affiliations at New York University and the University of Notre Dame. He has held several distinguished visiting professorships, including the J. Landis Martin Visiting Professor of Human Rights Law at Northwestern University (2005-2006), the Robert and Marion Short Visiting Professor of Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame (2004-2005), and the Frederick K. Cox Visiting Professor of Law at Case Western University (2000).