Hong Kong handover: Freedoms guaranteed, but for how long?

The Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, guarantees that the territory will continue to be governed in much the same way under Chinese rule as it was during the British administration. It outlines the basis for Deng Xiaoping's "One Country - Two Systems" principle and enshrines in law people's freedoms. However, it also makes provision for the incoming Hong Kong government to override many of those guarantees if there is any threat of "subversion".

The ability of the Hong Kong government and judiciary to make decisions independently of China is set out in article 2 of the Basic Law. This states that Hong Kong will have "a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, in accordance with the provisions of this law". This is supplemented by article 3, which ensures that the government will only be made up of Hong Kong people, not by officials drafted in from the mainland.

The "One Country, Two Systems" principle is outlined in article 5: "The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong SAR [special administrative region], and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years."

Article 27 guarantees freedom of speech and a free press in Hong Kong. However, there has been increasing self-censorship in the local media. This article also says that people will have "freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration" - though subsequently the provisional legislature has reintroduced the old colonial laws which mean that protesters have to seek prior permission from the police.

Article 68 guarantees that the Legislative Council will be elected. However, because of Chris Patten's decision to widen the franchise for the Legislative Council election in 1995, China has decided to scrap the existing Legco. The eventual aim, according to the Basic Law, is "the election of all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage".

Despite all these promises, article 23 gives the SAR government the opportunity to enact laws which could overturn many of the freedoms outlined in the other parts of the Basic Law. It comes into force if there is a threat of "an act of treason, secession, sedition [or] subversion" against China, or "theft of state secrets". It is also designed "to prohibit foreign political organisations or bodies from conducting political activities in the region, and to prohibit political organisations or bodies of the region from establishing ties with foreign political organisations or bodies".

This has been interpreted by many as giving the new administration wide- ranging powers to deal with its critics.

Cynics will inevitably draw comparisons with the constitution of the People's Republic, which is also littered with pledges and rights that have been disregarded by the government.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford attends Blade Runner at Target Presents AFI's Night at the Movies at ArcLight Cinemas on 24 April, 2013 in Hollywood, California
film... but Ridley Scott won't direct
Sport
Hughes is hit by a bouncer from Sean Abbott
cricketStephen Brenkley on batsman's tragic flaw that led to critical injury
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

Life and Style
Stefan Gates with some mince flies
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rooney Mara plays a white Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
filmFirst look at Rooney Mara in Pan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; VMWare, Windows; Bolton; £40k

£40000 per annum + benefits: Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; V...

h2 Recruit Ltd: BDD - Digital Banking Technology / CEM - £150k ote

£75000 - £100000 per annum + £150k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: There are many compani...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Graduate Consultant - Sales Recruitment - £35k ote

£18000 - £25000 per annum + £35k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for your first s...

Recruitment Genius: Advertising Media Sales - Print, Online & Mobile

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing house has been ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital