Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation in Hong Kong and Shanghai: A Cross-city Analysis
Cross-city analysis in environmental regulation within non-democratic political systems is a neglected area. Taking policy convergence and styles of regulation as the focus, this paper has taken an initial step to compare the environmental impact assessment (EIA) regulation in Hong Kong and Shanghai. In this comparative exercise, it is identified that policy convergence occurs more explicitly in policy ideology and policy consequences, whereas divergence takes place in policy content, regulatory process and public consultation. Convergence, however, is only superficial whereas divergence is substantial. Indeed EIA systems of these two jurisdictions have displayed contrasting styles of regulation. The formal EIA system in Shanghai is dominated by the environmental agency, which regulates informal politics in the EIA process within a legal format. The informal EIA system in Hong Kong is co-ordinated by the environmental agency, which seeks active co-operation with the clients in a consultative EIA process in an informal and discretionary manner. What makes the Hong Kong system superior to the Shanghai system is the existence of institutional channels for public consultation. Within a non-democratic political setting, the EIA process in Hong Kong is more transparent and the EIA system is more accountable to the public, whereas the EIA process in Shanghai is lacking in transparency and the EIA system is under tight bureaucratic control.
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