Hong Kong Handover Term Paper

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American television coverage of the Hong Kong 'handover that took place in 1997. This paper focuses on the portrayal of messages in American television coverage and determines whether or not such portrayal was really needed.

Considering the opposite ends at which Communism and Democracy stand, it is worth asserting that these two forms of rule cannot be merged. In understanding Hong Kong's current political situation, we must realize that Hong Kong was ruled by Britain till June 30th 1997 and now on gaining its freedom, it is now caught up in a struggle between its desires to retain Democracy while being ruled by Communism. This is a situation that was predicted and emphasized upon by American television coverage at the 'handover' of Hong Kong in 1997. However, this coverage was not necessary; as it didn't present any relevance to the common man in the U.S., and was only material to the fact that it reinforced anti-Communist sentiments.


Political transitions are transformations that have the potential to influence people lives significantly. The extent to which people's lives may be affected depends on a number of factors, some of which include the intensity of situations in connection with: a particular political transformation, the potential for the transition to negatively impact neighboring regions, and the deviance from expected political norms caused by a transition. In each of these cases, there would be concern shown by industrialized/capitalist/democratic nations, as these influencing factors are ones that have the potential to significantly disturb them (democratic countries). History does not in any way fall short of examples of these factors and the concern that nations have shown towards them.

A particular example that may be presented here is the 'handover' of Hong Kong' from the United Kingdom to Beijing in 1997. This political transition was one that presented enough scope to trigger unrest in Democratic/Capitalist countries because of the fact that Hong Kong was falling into the hands of the Communists.

Amid the mixed feelings that citizens in Hong Kong had regarding their political future, there were tall promises made by political leaders at the time of the 'handover'. One in particular that can be asserted is that of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. He said, that his government should "strike a balance between civil liberties and social stability, personal rights and social obligations, individual interests and the common good" (Mintier, 1997). However, it must be asserted that American television media was skeptical in its representation of such a 'balance'.

Though American television media made its efforts to expose the manner in which the people of Hong Kong were not under colonial rule anymore, it also carried a flavor of concern regarding future democracy in Hong Kong. This was naturally a concern because of the fact that it (Hong Kong) was being handed over to a Communist country.

Since American media, in particular the American television news, would naturally be the most useful tool for high level political objectives, it is interesting to learn about the number of broadcasts patronizing democratic norms. Certainly, democracy does support freedom of the individual, but it must also be taken into consideration whether the portrayed messages regarding the Hong Kong 'handover' were necessary or not.

Research Question:

Concerning the American Television coverage of the Honk Kong 'handover', it is worth investigating whether or not the message portrayal was really necessary or a political gimmick for it managed to create more hype and tension than what may have been required.

In considering this, it must also be asserted that it was obvious enough that there would be problems in Hong Kong's future because of the fact that they were being handed over to a Communist government and that was a well-known fact for over many decades. So, was there really enough reason to emphasize on the possibility of Hong Kong being engulfed by Communism?

Purpose of the study:

As television coverage is often used to develop the mindset of people, it is worth assessing what American television coverage aimed at doing at the time of the Hong Kong 'handover'. Though the citizens of Hong Kong were keen on reuniting with the motherland, American television coverage reported significant reservation of Hong Kong citizens regarding the 'handover'. This study aims at uncovering whether the American television coverage hoped to instill a feeling of democratic power in the minds of its people or if it aimed at warning the people in general about the possibilities the future could hold for Hong Kong and its Communist rule. In addition to this, this study aims at revealing whether there was really need for American television to provide coverage that reinforces anti-Communist sentiments (Moss, 1998).

Importance of the Study:

Television coverage being an important means of stimulating public opinion is relied upon heavily by governments. Through this tool, the mindset of the people can so easily be changed in order to suit political objectives (Golding & Harris, 1997). Even though the reality of a situation might one definite fact, television coverage can be used to transform people's views. In situations where there is significant political transition in process, public views can be won over smartly through relentless message portrayal (Cohen & Young, 1980). As in the case of the Hong Kong 'handover', American television coverage relentlessly depicted a more negative side of the story. Though there were citizens in Hong Kong who may have had reservations about the 'handover' American television coverage gave their public the impression that many citizens in Hong Kong were displeased with the 'handover'. The reality of the situation was that there celebrations all over Hong Kong at the time of the 'handover'. With this contradiction on hand, it is important to decipher whether the American television coverage was really needed and what they aimed to achieve through it.

Rationale of the Study:

In view of the manner in which the media is used as a tool for various agencies, it must be asserted that the media, particularly television coverage, is made use extensively by political entities in order to engrain ideas in the minds if citizens. This is an effective means of convincing and gaining a consensual view/approach towards particular issues.

Here, it can be said that the issue of the 'handover' of Hong Kong is one towards which a particular approach has been stimulated; this approach is anti-Communist sentiments and pro-democratic ones. With the previous conflicts against the Communists during the past hundred years, it is not really difficult for the media to accomplish this, and so, it can be said that the mechanism has perfectly made use of.

Defining terms:

Communism is a form of rule stemming from Marxism; a concept of an egalitarian society.

Communist' is a noun as well as an adjective. A Communist is (noun) one who is a follower of Communism.

Democratic society is a society in which all individuals are free to express themselves.

Capitalist is a society in which individuals are granted rights to conduct trade independent of government interference, with taxes being an exception.

Political entities may refer to governments or unions with political objectives.

Chapter II: Literature Review:

As leaders parted from Hong Kong on June 30, 1997 at midnight, there was an air of sadness around. This sadness was the distinct regret that the British had to relinquish their hold of a region that was never theirs to begin with. However, it must be asserted that since Hong Kong was now being passed on to the Communist Beijing, there are fears around that Hong Kong might not be the same in years to come.

The obvious sentiments were that instead of Democracy spreading into mainland China, Communism might engulf Hong Kong, stripping it of the capitalist pride it has enjoyed for years. A single question asked at the time of the 'handover' would be "What will remain of Hong Kong's civil liberties once China takes the reins of the British colony?" (Mintier 1997)

Indeed, to the independent citizens of Hong Kong, this was largely an unreasonable question, simply because of the fact that they were patriotic to their motherland and wanted to reunite with it. The sentiments about the 'handover' were intense, and were heralded by celebrations that lasted hours.

The preparations for these celebrations had also taken great lengths of time involving the some of the most popular stars from Asia. With this attitude towards the 'handover' of Hong Kong, it cannot reasonably be said of the Hong Kong citizens that they feared being put back into the hands of Beijing. Contrary to this notion is the American one, as it has all been reinforced through television coverage of the event.

It is clear that American television coverage of the 'handover' of Hong Kong seems to have aimed at triggering worries rather than satisfaction. This has been so because of the fact that there are concerns for the way that legislature was replaced at the time of the 'handover'.

The change in legislature undoubtedly signified that there were bound…[continue]

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