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Lau China Institute presents an online discussion with Daniel Vukovich on the occasion of the publication of his latest book, After Autonomy: A Post-Mortem for Hong Kong’s First Handover, 1997-2019. In this book presentation, Vukovich will be joined by Prof Kerry Brown, Director of the Lau China Institute and Dr Xin Fan, Director of Studies in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University, to discuss Hong Kong, the ‘second handover’ and post-colonial dynamics. After Autonomy de-romanticises the latest developments in Hong Kong and explores what forms de-colonization could actually take in the city.


About the book

Daniel Vukovich’s latest book offers a critical analysis of the rise and fall of the 2019 anti-extradition bill movement in Hong Kong, including prior events like Occupy Central and the Mongkok Fishball Revolution, as well as their aftermaths in light of the re-assertion of mainland sovereignty over the SAR and the onset of what has been locally dubbed as the ‘second handover.’

Vukovich reads the conflict against the grain of those who would romanticize it as a spontaneous outburst of the desire for freedom from mainland oppression and for a self-explanatory democracy, on the one hand, and on the other hand those who would dismiss or condemn the protests in nationalistic or conspiratorial anti-imperialist fashion. Instead the book attempts to go beyond mediatized discourse to disentangle 2019’s and the SAR’s roots in the Basic Law system as well as in the colonial and insufficiently post-colonial contexts and dynamics of Hong Kong.

Vukovich examines the question of localist identity and its discontents (particularly the rise of xenophobia), the problems of nativism, violence, and liberalism, the impossibility of autonomy, and what forms a genuine de-colonization can and might yet take in the city. A concluding chapter examines Hong Kong’s need for state capacity and proper, livelihood development, in the light of the Omicron wave of the Covid pandemic, as the SAR goes forward into a second handover. The book is an intervention into the study of Hong Kong and global politics as well as into critical theory and post-colonial studies.


About the speakers

Daniel Vukovich (胡德) is an inter-disciplinary scholar who works on issues of post-colonialism, politics, and critical theory in relation to the China-West relationship. He has worked at HKU since 2006, after earlier stints at Hocking College and UC Santa Cruz before and after his PhD from the University of Illinois, Urbana. He is currently Chair of the Comp Lit Program within the School of Humanities, and an Advisory Research Fellow at Southeast University (东南大学) in Nanjing (School of Marxism) and a virtual Visiting Professor of Politics at East China Normal University (华东师范大学).

He is the author of three monographs, including China and Orientalism: Western Knowledge Production and the PRC (Routledge 2012), Illiberal China: The Ideological Challenge of the P.R.C. (Palgrave 2019) and most recently After Autonomy: A Post-Mortem for Hong Kong’s first Handover, 1997–2019 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022). In these and in other texts he is centrally concerned with the age-old problems of representation, the politics of knowledge or discourse, and the dialectics of difference and universality.


Kerry Brown is Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College, London. He is an Associate of the Asia Pacific Programme at Chatham House, London, an adjunct of the Australia New Zealand School of Government in Melbourne, and the co-editor of the Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, run from the German Institute for Global Affairs in Hamburg. He is President-Elect of the Kent Archaeological Society and an Affiliate of the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit at Cambridge University.

From 2012 to 2015 he was Professor of Chinese Politics and Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Australia. Prior to this he worked at Chatham House from 2006 to 2012, as Senior Fellow and then Head of the Asia Programme. From 1998 to 2005 he worked at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as First Secretary at the British Embassy in Beijing, and then as Head of the Indonesia, Philippine and East Timor Section. He lived in the Inner Mongolia region of China from 1994 to 1996.


Dr Xin Fan (范鑫) is a historian of twentieth-century China. He is Director of Studies in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University. As a global citizen, he has studied and taught at universities in China, Germany, and the United States. As Teaching Associate in Modern Chinese History, he teaches Chinese History and Culture at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University. He is the author of World History and National Identity in China: The Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2021). He also co-edits Reception of Greek and Roman Antiquity in East Asia (Brill, 2018).

He is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively titled, "The Right to Talk about China: Liberal Intellectuals and the Rise of Emotional Politics, 1900 to 1949," as well as collaborating with scholars in Europe, America, and Asia on several projects on nationalism, historiography, and conceptual history. In addition, he writes about world-historical analogies.

This is an online event

This event will take place via Zoom. 

Please click the link to register for this webinar.

At this event

Kerry Brown

Director, Lau China Institute