Britain’s primary concern in its negotiations for the return of Hong Kong to China, was that Hong Kong be allowed to continue in its current capitalist form and not have communism foisted on to the city.
As part of the Sino-British agreement on the return of Hong Kong, both governments agreed on the Basic Law, a mini-constitution that would govern Hong Kong for the next fifty years. China calls this way of governing one country, two systems.
Basic Law – Some of the primary tenets of the Basic Law
- The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the HKSAR, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years
- The selection of Chief Executive is to be ultimately by means of Universal Suffrage
- 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.
- 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.
- The laws previously in force in Hong Kong, that is, the common law, rules of equity, ordinances, subordinate legislation and customary law (such as Chinese clan law) shall be maintained, except for any that contravene the Basic Law and subject to any amendment by the legislature of the HKSAR.
- The HKSAR has a high degree of autonomy and enjoys executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.
- Universal suffrage is currently a hot political potato. Universal suffrage is no closer than in 1997, resulting in over 1 million Hong Kong residents, 1/7th of the population, annually marching to demand it.
- The status of Hong Kong’s judiciary has been in called into question. Hong Kong residents arrested on the mainland are supposed to be returned to the SAR, however this has not always been the case.
- Beijing attempted to introduce an anti-subversion law in 2006 that would have limited freedom of speech. This was rejected, after the Hong Kong people took to the streets.
- Also of concern is the fact that the final interpretation of the Basic Law is the responsibility of the Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress, or the Chinese Communist Party.