Development and the resuscitation of rural leadership in Hong Kong: the case of neo-indirect-rule

AuthorKuan Hsin Chi

Lau Siu-kai

TitleDevelopment and the resuscitation of rural leadership in Hong Kong: the case of neo-indirect-rule
PublisherSocial Research Center, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Publication DateFebruary, 1979

Politics and government

Abstract/ Concluding Remarks:

As in many other developing societies, the long-term effects of urbanization and industrialization in Hong Kong are to reduce or demolish the structural significance of traditional leaders in the rural areas. However, it has been demonstrated in this paper that in the short-run, rural leaders can be deliberately resuscitated, in order to provide a stabilizing mechanism in the process of a form of planned development, which requires the requisition of rural land and the relocation of rural residents. Utilizing rural leaders, and in the process transforming them, is a particularly attractive approach to planned development in a situation where the administrative capability of the government is not sufficient for developmental purposes, as it can obviate the unwelcome choice of having to dismantle the original administrative structure of the rural society totally, which would be tantamount to the drastic breakdown of rural social organization. Needless to say, the successful adoption of these development tactics of neo-indirect-rule (which is different from the classical colonial practice of indirect rule which is directed to the maintenance of the status quo) is contingent upon the existence of a number of facilitating conditions. By extrapolation from what has been implicit in the foregoing case study of Hong Kong, one can argue that these conditions are:

1) that the rural leadership is still in possession of some ritual and political power which enables it to perform the role of mediator between the government and the villagers;

2) that external resources can be effectively mustered in order to bolster and expand the power and legitimacy of the rural leaders;

3) that the government is capable of monopolizing and dispensing these resources in a selective manner;

4) that these resources are coveted both by the rural leaders and the villagers;

5) that the rural organization is sufficiently loose so that leaders do not identify themselves intensely with the villagers and the villagers cannot effectively apply pressure on the leaders to make them conform to the “common interests” . Many of these conditions are available in the rural areas of developing societies, and the adaptation of traditional leaders for modern purposes should therefore be a realistic and feasible development strategy for planners in other countries besides Hong Kong.

NoteIncludes bibliographical references
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