Legal mobilization is the process by which individuals invoke their legal rights and use litigation to defend or develop these rights against the government. In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to this phenomenon as it occurs under authoritarian regimes. It is often suggested that, in such situations, legal mobilization is caused by the strategic interests of the ruling elites. Using the case study of post-colonial Hong Kong, where legal mobilization has by no means unfolded as political authorities would wish, Waikeung Tam casts doubt on this contention. To do so, he examines in depth why and how legal mobilization arises under authoritarianism. Tam analyses quantitative data of changes in the Hong Kong judiciary agendas over the last three decades and uses detailed interviews with activists, politicians, cause lawyers, judges and government officials to reveal the complex underlying socio-political forces at play.
Waikeung Tam is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Lingnan University, Hong Kong.
1. Introduction: explaining the rise of legal mobilization in post-colonial Hong Kong; 2. The growth of legal mobilization in post-colonial Hong Kong; 3. Critical antecedent - legal complex; 4. The opening of new legal opportunities; 5. The reversal of political opportunities; 6. The political origins of cause lawyering in Hong Kong; 7. Cause lawyers as transformative agents; 8. Rights advocacy groups as transformative agents; 9. The impacts of the judicialization of politics; 10. Conclusion: theoretical and comparative contributions; Appendix 1. Human rights and public policy litigation the Privy Council and the Court of Final Appeal decided (1981-2010); Appendix 2. Important litigation brought by pro-democracy politicians and social activists to the Court of Appeal (CoA) and the Court of First Instance (CFI) (1981-2010); Appendix 3. List of interviewees (alphabetical by category).