Hong Kong, a former British colony, is governed by the principle of “one country, two systems” to ensure the autonomy of the region. This agreement between China and Hong Kong was negotiated prior to the handover in 1997 and it proclaims that the region will maintain a high degree of autonomy and that it will preserve its economic and social systems for a total of 50 years.
The original intention of the agreement was to promote stability and to facilitate a smooth transition from the British rule to a Beijing-led government. To this effect, Beijing agreed not to interfere in the domestic affairs of Hong Kong including freedom of speech, press, assembly and demonstration. It also allowed for a continued presence of foreign businesses, the common law of Hong Kong as well as the capitalist economy of the region.
The ‘one country, two systems’ agreement has also granted Hong Kong a certain degree of legislative power. It has established the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, under which the Central Government of China delegates certain powers to the local government. In particular, the agreement allows Hong Kong to set its own taxation,create business laws, enact security regulations and craft its own public housing policies.
The agreement between China and Hong Kong has provided for a number of safeguards for citizens of the region. In particular, the Basic Law ensures that Hong Kong residents will continue to have the right to vote and stand for office in local elections. Furthermore, the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement also seeks to address the needs of the underprivileged by making provisions for the creation of social housing and the protection of welfare rights.
The ‘one country, two systems’ agreement between China and Hong Kong has come under increased scrutiny over the past few years. In particular, the presence of Beijing-backed forces in the region and a lack of genuine autonomy have caused many to call for an amendment to the agreement. Meanwhile, many Hong Kongers are frustrated at the slow pace of political reform and lack of genuine autonomy.
However, despite recent events, the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement is still in effect and it is expected to remain in place for the next 25 years until 2047, when the 50 year timeline established by the agreement will come to an end. As such, the agreement between China and Hong Kong still provides the region with a unique set of freedoms and autonomy that many Hong Kongers are still able to enjoy. It remains to be seen whether or not changes will be made before 2047 in order to ensure the continued autonomy of the region.