Hong Kong is unlike any other place in the world and the importance placed upon its unique status is reflected in the principle of “one country, two systems”. This system is based on the premise that while Hong Kong remains a part of China, the city is governed under a separate set of laws, to be upheld until the handover agreement is complete – a period of fifty years.

Hong Kong is still officially part of the People’s Republic of China, yet it remains a separate entity in terms of its politics, economy, and social structures and values. This high level of autonomy is beneficial to both countries: Hong Kong is allowed to maintain a degree of self-governance, while China is able to benefit from the autonomous region’s wealth and expertise.

The agreement was made in 1997 at the time of the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty from the United Kingdom to China. It is clear that the Chinese wanted to preserve the region’s prosperity and success, as well as its special status, which they knew would be beneficial to their own growth. As part of that agreement, the Chinese promised to maintain Hong Kong’s existing economic and social systems for the fifty years following the handover.

The implications and outcomes of this promise remain to be seen, and much of Hong Kong’s autonomy relies on how the government complies with the agreement. This is reflected in both the Chinese laws they enforce in the region, and their decisions on pending legislation. These decisions are made as part of the Basic Law, which is a mini-constitution that outlines the city’s political and legal systems.

Since 1997, Hong Kong has maintained a generous degree of autonomy. The promise of a high level of autonomy has been a major factor in Hong Kong residents having a higher standard of living than other parts of mainland China. Hong Kong is the most densely populated region in the world, and its citizens enjoy a high degree of freedom, with a large focus on education and civil rights.

It is likely that the economic and cultural opportunities that this autonomy has created for Hong Kong residents will not remain if China fails to uphold its promise of fifty years of autonomy. Therefore, it is essential that both China and the citizens of Hong Kong ensure that the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement is maintained and respected, to ensure the continued success of the region.

Ultimately, it is down to the leaders of both countries to protect the autonomy and prosperity of the region for the next fifty years. The promise of self-governance is one that must be kept if Hong Kong and China wish to benefit from its unique and special status.