What is Hong Kong’s Basic Law?
The “one country, two systems” principle is enshrined in a document called the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini constitution. That came into effect on 1 July 1997, the day British rule ended and the territory was returned to China. That agreement is only valid for 50 years.
Basic Law protects rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech – neither of which exist in mainland China – and also sets out the structure of governance for the territory. Hong Kong is ruled by a chief executive with support from a formal body of advisors, called the Executive Council.
The chief executive is responsible for implementing the Basic Law, signing bills and budgets, promulgating laws – declaring them as in effect – and issuing executive orders. It also has a two-tiered semi-representative system of government: the law-making Legislative Council and district councils, as well as an independent judiciary. There are also about 5,000 Chinese soldiers permanently based in Hong Kong. But they can only intervene in Hong Kong if China declares an all-out state of emergency or war, at the request of the Hong Kong government, or for the “maintenance of public order and in disaster relief”.