Public governance reform in Hong Kong: Rebuilding trust and governability

Bing Leung Anthony CHEUNG

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explain the evolution of the system of public governance in Hong Kong, the various public sector reforms undertaken over the past two to three decades, and the present quagmire in governance resulting in a looming crisis in public trust and governability. Design/methodology/approach: The research for the paper is based on opinion polls conducted by the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme, and the findings of government reports, international organizations, official documents of the Hong Kong government, surveys by international and domestic organizations, and media reports. Findings: The paper shows that the present political configuration of governance in Hong Kong had largely thrived on the pre‐1997 colonial logic of administrative state and government by bureaucracy. Such a system has now become hard to sustain due to rising political distrust and cynicism caused partly by the democratic deficit and the absence of the politics of responsibility. Hong Kong was a pioneer of public sector reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, but such reforms – grounded in the NPM (new public management) logic of management efficiency – no longer suffice to cope with the growing crisis of governability. It is argued that rebuilding trust and governability should be put at the forefront of the governance reform agenda. Originality/value: The value of the paper is to show that despite good external ratings, the domestic perceptions of the performance of governance might be very different due to internal social and political problems. Administrative and management reforms merely copying external models, without touching on the fundamental and structural issues, are unlikely to forge a common sense of purpose and identity that is needed for sustainable governance. Copyright © 2013 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-436
JournalInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


Cheung, A. B. L. (2013). Public governance reform in Hong Kong: Rebuilding trust and governability. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 26(5), 421-436.


  • Hong Kong
  • Governance
  • Public administration
  • Public sector management
  • Governability
  • Public sector reform
  • Public trust
  • Social cohesion
  • Political integration
  • Institutional compatibility


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