Hong Kong
Where East meets West
Hong Kong Government, Politics

Politics & Government

Where the "One Country, Two Systems" concept started...

As already explained in various chapters across this website, Hong Kong is a special administrative region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China, with a high degree of autonomy in all matters, except foreign and defense affairs.


On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong returned to Chinese control, when the sovereignty was transferred to the People's Republic of China (PRC), ending more than 150 years of British colonial rule.


Discussions that were held between Britain and China in the early 1980s, long before the handover, with a view to agree on Hong Kong's future under Chinese rule, resulted in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the formation of a unique form of governing, known as the "One Country, Two Systems" concept.


According to this policy, which was integrated in the Sino-British Joint Declaration (signed in 1984), as well as in the Basic Law (Hong Kong's constitutional document), for 50 years after transition Hong Kong will retain its political, economic, and judicial systems and unique way of life and continue to participate in international agreements and organisations as a dependent territory. For instance, the International Olympic Committee recognises Hong Kong as a participating dependency under the name, "Hong Kong, China", separate from Mainland China.


Pursuant to Basic Law, the local Hong Kong government retains sovereignty over the territory except in areas of national defence and foreign relations. Only the Chief Executive, the head of territory and head of government, is selected by the Chief Executive Election Committee composed of 800 members. All other functionaries of the government, including members the executive and legislative branch, are either appointed by the Chief Executive (directly or by proxy) or elected by voters. In theory, this arrangement guarantees Hong Kong is governed almost independently of the PRC and can retain its unique cultural, legal and economic infrastructure. In practice, however, some have accused Beijing of excess intrusion into Hong Kong's domestic affairs beyond levels permitted under Basic Law.


Some of the most important achievements, enshrined under the Basic law are :

  • The Hong Kong SAR has a high degree of autonomy and enjoys executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication (Article 2).
  • The executive authorities and legislature of the Hong Kong SAR shall be composed of permanent residents of Hong Kong in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Basic Law (Article 3). The implication is that Beijing can not "drop" its bureaucrats into the Hong Kong government.
  • The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in Hong Kong, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years after handover. (Article 5)
  • The freedom of the person of Hong Kong residents shall be inviolable. No Hong Kong resident shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful arrest, detention or imprisonment. Arbitrary or unlawful search of the body of any resident or deprivation or restriction of the freedom of the person shall be prohibited. Torture of any resident or arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of the life of any resident shall be prohibited. (Article 28)
  • Hong Kong residents shall have, among other things, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and of publication; freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of procession, of demonstration, of communication, of movement, of conscience, of religious belief, and of marriage; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike. (Articles 27-38).


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