• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 9:27pm

Basic Law

The Basic Law was drafted as part of the Sino-British Joint Declaration covering Hong Kong after its handover to China on July 1, 1997. The joint declaration stated that Hong Kong would be governed under the principle of ‘one country-two systems’ and would continue to enjoy its capitalist system and individual freedoms for 50 years after the handover.

CommentInsight & Opinion

It's not too early to discuss Hong Kong's 2047 promise

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 2:13am

When China and Britain sealed the fate of post-handover Hong Kong 29 years ago, there was a solemn pledge that our way of life would be maintained for 50 years. The undertaking is enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. During the initial years of reunification, the focus was on how well Beijing kept the promise. Our system and freedoms, by and large, have been preserved. As we move into the 16th year, people are understandably turning their attention to the longer term. Will the promise of the so-called "50 years unchanged" expire by 2047? What will happen afterwards?

It may be too early to speculate on what may happen 34 years on. But that does not stop the forward-looking from speaking up on the subject. Last November, former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang said the future of one country, two systems would have to be discussed and settled well before the end of the 50-year period, probably as early as 2030. Although no one is advocating our independent judiciary should be tamed into an obedient branch backing the government, Li's remarks, which came amid concerns over judges' rulings and foreign nationalities, have raised political eyebrows.

The current chief justice appears more optimistic. In an interview with the Hong Kong Student Law Gazette, Geoffrey Ma Tao-li noted that the Basic Law does not say there must be a convergence of the local and mainland legal systems by 2047. He said our common law is a good system, and we have to show this is the case to Beijing and the people to ensure its survival.

It has been suggested that Deng Xiaoping made the reference to 50 years in the belief that the standard of living on the mainland would catch up with Hong Kong's by then. That remains to be seen, but some Chinese cities are certainly overtaking us in terms of growth and prosperity. The perceived deadline may still be too remote to generate substantive debate on the way forward at this stage, but the 2047 issue is bound to crop up again as we move forward.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Prof Lau is right that HK’s problems
have much to do with sudden autonomization
unprecedented by a necessary process of de-colonization
Strategically HK "can" benefit China in a relationship
“like” Britain or Nippon to the US
But that seems impossible because of
the short-sightedness and servitude of HK’s “elites” and masses
HK is neither here nor there.
Its supposed edges in law and finance
are all built on borrowed structures that prove barren;
can't adpat to local environments
HK's complacent and self-congratulatory elites and masses
are incapable of self-development
Dedependent on China to survive,
it will be eclipsed by cities in China where citizens
rely on their innate resources
to develop their own culture
as the foundation of their identity, pride and future.
Maybe ur right, but why would China want to discuss now? If Anyone not see china likely cut out HK by 2047 is either dump or too naive. By 2047 it is quite sure China is the biggest world economy and RMB will be floated and SH will had surpassed HK as major international finance center. Some argue we have better law. but please check the amount of FDI invested in China vs HK you will probably figure law in China does not scare foreign investment. What's the bargain power of HK by then we have aged population and has no more advantage?
Hong Kong will be just fine as long as it continues to be an exemplar of a new fundamental law of nature and culture, the Constructal Law of Design, where energy, matter and information evolve to flow more freely, sustainably and easily, with greater force and often, emergent complexity. Hong Kong has always had optimal Logos & Qi flow, as long as it continues to properly manage its Heraclitian Logos & Mencian Qi, all will be well.
SpeakFreely is a windbag and doesn't know what he's talking about half of the time. He thinks the US is better and always complains about HK. Don't forget Speakfreely is also an accountant, a former tech director, and a landlord!
I'm not even sure what he means by HK getting "cut out" by 2047. If he means that HK's SAR status will be dissolved, well that's easier said than done. In reality it would be very complex to change from a common law system to a civil law system and not have it damage the economy and create public unrest. Why should Beijing create this type of headache for itself? Extending the SAR another 50 years is more simple, and I am sure Beijing will find a use for HK even when China is the world's largest economy.
Also wow a nation as huge as China has more FDI than tiny HK! What a shocker! HK still has its own niches despite that. A growing number of mainland firms set HK as the venue for all legal disputes because of its excellent legal system.
Speakfreely, you really are cynical and offer nothing to the table.
“Don't forget Speakfreely is also an accountant, a former tech director, and a landlord” - why?
What should readers bear in mind when they read your comments: “bluechinagroup is XX, YY+ ZZ”
As I understand it, the headache referred in the question,
“Why should Beijing create this type of headache for itself?”,
is not legal transformation, which is technical and therefore manageable.
The headache is why incorporate a post-colonial ruin
populated by defeatist and myopic scalp worshippers
who may be used to showcase China’s tolerance
for purblind sales of western shibboleths.


SCMP.com Account