How policy agendas change when autocracies liberalize : The case of Hong Kong, 1975–2016

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

4 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)926-941
Journal / PublicationPublic Administration
Issue number4
Online published3 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


This article considers how autocrats decide to expand or narrow the issue diversity of their policy agenda during a period of political liberalization. Prior studies have two competing perspectives. First, political liberalization increases the social and political freedom that enhances information exchange, and thus expands issue diversity. Second, political liberalization decreases government's control of the legislature and thus narrows the issue diversity. This article offers a novel theoretical perspective by combining these two countervailing theories. Specifically, it predicts a diminishing marginal benefit of information exchange and an increasing marginal bargaining cost. As such, this article argues that issue diversity follows a negative quadratic (inverted-U) relationship as the regimes liberalize. The analysis of a new and unique dataset of Hong Kong's legislative agenda (1975 to 2016) offers support for this theory. This study sheds light on policy-making in authoritarian regimes and democracies, and advances the theory of information processing.