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By Stephanie P.Y. Chung

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4 The British could identify very few ‘village elders’ in the colony. The reason was that the majority of the Chinese in Hong Kong were male immigrants with no village to which to attach themselves. J. Lethbridge finds that in 1844 there were only 315 families among the 13 000 Chinese in the colony. 6 The immigrant population, the majority of whom were Chinese males, had brought with them to the colony a type of social institution which differed from what the British had anticipated (‘village’ society, for instance).

She argues that as the central government was in political eclipse, a bourgeoisled public sphere grew after 1911. This ‘golden age’ however, came to an end in 1927, when China was nominally unified under Chiang Kai-shek, who established a central government in Nanking. Under this new government, parallel organisations were set up to replace the chambers of commerce. This process was accelerated by the abolition of foreign concessions in China starting in 1927, and the 1930 termination of the mixed court system.

Under this new government, parallel organisations were set up to replace the chambers of commerce. This process was accelerated by the abolition of foreign concessions in China starting in 1927, and the 1930 termination of the mixed court system. In Bergere’s words, as ‘the refuge that the foreign concessions provided against these encroachments by the Chinese public authorities was becoming increasingly fragile’, the Guomindang bureaucracy expanded its control over China by stripping ‘the bourgeoisie of the political initiative that it had possessed since the 1911 revolution and … the social autonomy that the merchant class had enjoyed in the preceding century ….

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