United front work has long been an important tool through which the Chinese Communist Party exercises political influence in Hong Kong. While existing works have revealed the history, actors, and impact of united front work in this semiautonomous city, few studies have focused on its changing structure and objectives in the post-handover period. Using publicly available reports and an original event dataset, we show that united front work has involved a steady organizational proliferation of social organizations coupled with their increasingly frequent interaction with the mainland authorities and the Hong Kong government. We argue that united front work has become more decentralized and multilayered in its structure and that its objective has been shifting from elite co-optation to proactive countermobilization against pro-democracy threats. Our findings indicate that state power in post-handover Hong Kong does not solely belong to governmental institutions; it is increasingly exercised through an extensive network comprising multiple state and social actors.

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