ChinaFile Presents: The Future of Democracy in Hong Kong


With Martin Lee, Anson Chan, and Isabel Hilton

A discussion with Anson Chan and Martin Lee, veteran political leaders in Hong Kong who are known and respected for their decades of service in the legislature and government, as well as their political independence. They will be joined by Isabel Hilton, a London-based journalist and Editor of chinadialogue.

When Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, China’s leaders vowed the former colony would be governed according to Deng Xiaoping’s “one country, two systems” formula, territorially reunited with the mainland, but independent in its laws and political institutions, and free to choose its own leaders by popular election by 2017. How has that promise fared in the intervening seventeen years? What challenges face the vibrant entrepôt? How are trade, domestic politics, and public opinion shaping Hong Kong’s future? And what do recent developments mean for the future of Hong Kong’s democrats?


Anson Chan was Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary, the head of the civil service under British rule, and after the transfer of sovereignty held the post under Chinese rule. She was the first ethnic Chinese to hold the second-highest governmental position in Hong Kong. She has often been described as Hong Kong’s “Iron Lady,” and is regarded as one of the most powerful women in Asia. In 2013, she helped launch the Hong Kong 2020 campaign, which advocates for constitutional changes in order to achieve “full universal suffrage for election of the Chief Executive in 2017 and all members of the Legislative Council by 2020.”

Martin Lee is a top barrister, longtime democracy advocate, and the founding Chairman of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong. He served in the Legislative Council from 1985-2008. Along with Chan, he has been among the highest profile defenders of Hong Kong’s freedoms, rule of law, and way of life. He has argued that without a democratic system to underpin the rule of law, Hong Kong will not continue as a free society and as a model for China’s future development. In a recent New York Times op-ed titled “Hong Kong’s Shaky Democratic Future,” he warned that “our autonomy and the rule of law it buttresses are under threat from the mainland central government,” and called on Beijing to end the dangerous escalation of press censorship in Hong Kong.

Isabel Hilton is a London-based international journalist and broadcaster. She has worked for The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian, and The New Yorker. In 1992, she became a presenter of the BBC’s flagship news program “The World Tonight,” then BBC Radio Three’s cultural program “Night Waves.” She is a columnist for The Guardian and her work has appeared in The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Granta, The New Statesman, El Pais, Index on Censorship, and many other publications. She is the author and co-author of several books and is founder and editor of chinadialogue, a non-profit, fully bilingual online publication based in London, Beijing, and Delhi that focuses on the environment and climate change. Hilton holds two honorary doctorates and was awarded the OBE for her work in raising environmental awareness in China.


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We are pleased that the Overseas Press Club joins us in hosting this event.

Event Details

Mon 31 Mar 2014
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
725 Park Avenue (at East 70th Street), New York, NY
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$8 members; $10 students/seniors; $12 non-members
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