After 156 years of British colonial rule, Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997. This article examines the change of the Hong Kong Police (HKP) and related issues during this transition. Based on an institutional perspective, it is argued that the HKP's paramilitary traditions greatly constrain changes. Where change has occurred, it has been induced by an extrainstitutional impetus that is strong enough to overcome institutionalized obstacles. The analysis examines the HKP's paramilitary traditions, how it has been transformed from a systematically corrupt and oppressive colonial force to a professionalized agency at the time that the above transition process began, and how it has responded to its changed environment. The institutional perspective is used to explain the challenges the HKP faces during the transformational process and to discuss the general implications of the HKP experience for understanding organizational change.
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