Past Event

Freedom Undone: The Assault on Liberal Values and Institutions in Hong Kong

March 19, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
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School of International and Public Affairs, 420 West 118th Street, Room 918, New York, NY 10027

Speaker: Michael Davis, Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Research Affiliate, Weatherhead East Asia Institute, Columbia University; Professor of Law and International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University

Moderator: Andrew J. Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Columbia University

A lot has been written about the 2019 protests in Hong Kong and the aggressive police crackdown offered in response. Much less has been written about the more severe assault on liberal values and institutions that followed. In his forthcoming book Professor Davis takes a forensic look at both the growing Beijing intervention in Hong Kong affairs from the handover forward and its culmination in the more severe crackdown that followed the 2019 protest, the 2020 passage of the National Security Law, and the 2021 Beijing imposition of a patriots-only electoral system. This talk will highlight the comprehensive impact of these developments on Hong Kong’s rule of law, its criminal justice system, and the many freedoms for which the vibrant city was long known—often previously ranking among the highest in the world. The diminution of basic freedoms has touched nearly all sectors of society, including education, the media, public broadcasting, civil society organizations, legal services, and so on. The city long known for a vibrant public debate, its vigorous media landscape, and some of the largest non-violent protests in the world has gone silent. The sheer comprehensiveness of this imposition raises questions not only for Hong Kong but for liberal democratic values globally, as autocratic regimes such as the PRC seek to advance their illiberal agenda.

Speaker's Bio: Professor Michael C. Davis is a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC, a Senior Research Associate at the Weatherhead East Asia Institute, and a Professor of Law and International Affairs at O.P. Jindal Global University in India. Long a public intellectual in Hong Kong, he was a professor in the Law Faculty at the University of Hong Kong until late 2016. His scholarship engages a range of issues relating to human rights, the rule of law, and constitutionalism in emerging states, for which he has published several books and numerous articles in leading academic journals. He has also contributed essays and commentary to such widely read public affairs journals as Foreign Affairs and the Journal of Democracy, as well as such popular media as the Washington Post, the New York Times, Nikkei, Apple Daily, and the South China Morning Post, the latter for which he was awarded a 2015 Human Rights Press Award for commentary. As a public intellectual he has appeared for interviews on crucial human rights topics in such broadcast media as CNN, the BBC, National Public Radio and NBC News. He brings that same in-depth experience to his current book due out in February 2024, entitled Freedom Undone: The Assault of Liberal Values and Institutions in Hong Kong. For a further list of his activities and publications you may consult:

This event is hosted by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and co-sponsored by the China and the World Program. 


  • To attend this event in-person, please register HERE.
  • To attend this event online, please register HERE.

Contact Information

Julie Kwan

[email protected]