Hongkong has been a part of China since July 1, 1997. Before this, it was within the control of Britain. It was handed by China to Britain after the first and second opium war, in which China lost and as a result, Hongkong was handed over to Britain. The war was fought by the Qing dynasty in the United Kingdom. At that time the UK was engaged in the trade of opium and a large population of China became habitual to this. Opium trade widely affected the health of people and the economy of China. Hongkong was used as a harbour from ancient times and trade took place by using a port of Hongkong. After losses in the first & second opium wars agreement is signed between[1] China and Britain, due to which Hongkong is leased to Britain for 99 years. From the period of 1841 to 1997, Hongkong was ruled and controlled by Britain except from 1941 to 1945 at that time it was under the control of Japan during World War II.

With time, Hongkong had developed as an important place for trade across the globe. It makes an irreplaceable place for trade and its importance is increasing day by day. Now, Hongkong flourished with buildings, ports, and a well-developed economy. With an expiry period of 99 years in 1997, Hongkong again came in control of China along with a treaty signed in 1984 known as the Sino-British joint declaration. Due to this, China has to treat Hongkong as one country with two systems for 50 years till 2047. One country with two policies means Hongkong will be part of China as a Special Administrative Region(SAR) and have a high degree of autonomy in [2] managing its affairs, To ensure continuity with the existing system and preservation of Hong Konger’s familiar lifestyle. After the expiration of 50 Years, China will have full control over Hongkong.


When Hongkong was handed over to Chinese authority, then Hongkong was handed over to Chinese authority, then Hongkong was given the status of Special Administrative Region. Being a Special Administrative Region, basic law formulated by China to cover the next 50 years. When Hongkong is part of Britain it is governed through their system in other words through democracy and its elements are practised. In China, there is a communist government, people do not have freedom as in democracy like the free and fair election to speak against the government, criticize government policies. Therefore basic law is formulated for Hongkong which affirms the principle of “one country, two systems”.[3] One country two system means, Hongkong is now part of mainland China but it can’t be governed by the same system as followed in mainland China for this different system is to be followed by Hongkong to honour, respect their rights enjoyed by them when it is part of Britain.

In basic law, there are 160 articles divided into nine-chapter. In all nine-chapter, it mentions the rules and regulations to be followed to maintain Hongkong governance under one country, two systems. Chapter III of the Basic Law[4] specifically safeguards various fundamental rights and freedoms of residents in Hong Kong, including freedom of the person; freedom of movement; freedom of conscience and religious belief; equality before the law; freedom of speech, and the press; freedom of association, assembly, procession, and demonstration; freedom and privacy of communication; freedom in the choice of occupation and to engage in academic research; the right of access to the courts and judicial remedies; the right to social welfare per law; and freedom of marriage. In article 158, [5]It is mentioned that both the Chinese government and the higher appeal of the court of Hongkong can interpret the basic law. In this, there is a provision for a legislative council known as Leg Co, an elected government to regulate the affairs of Hongkong. Even after, there is a clear drawing of the relationship between the authority of mainland China and Hongkong, mainland China is trying to control the affairs of Hongkong by manipulating the Legislative Council. If leaders are in control and faithful to mainland China then policies made by it will also be in favour of China, by ignoring the demands of Hongkong. Also till now, in Hongkong, [6]there is no Universal Suffrage which largely affects the procedure of electing a government.


China promised Hongkong’s citizens, that they will enjoy democratic rights in the future also is explicitly mentioned in the basic law. But with time China introduced many laws to curb the freedom & rights granted to the people of Hongkong. The promise of one country, two systems became faux. Recently in the year 2020, a National Security law was [7]passed by mainland China to curb protest which is ongoing because the government arrested and outlawed many leaders of Hongkong, demanding full-fledged democracy. And the main reason for the protest is [8] the Extradition Bill introduced by Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hongkong for the extradition of Hong Kongers to those countries in which the city doesn’t have an extradition agreement. The main purpose behind the Extradition Bill is to send dissenters to mainland China, where punishment for protest against the government is harsh. But by continuing to protest against this bill, the Legislative council decided to withdraw it. The National Security Law, 2020 passed by China shows[9] its true intention of curtailing the rights of the citizens and treating them as the people of mainland China. In this,[10] Hongkong, the independent legal system will also lose its autonomy as it mentioned that trials will take place behind closed doors.

There are also changes in the Legislative Council of Hongkong,[11] seats increased from 70 to 90, with the proportion of directly elected seats reduced from half to less than a quarter of feats just 20. This shows the intention of the Chinese government to control Hongkong as it controls mainland China, like no opposition party, and doesn’t allow anyone to speak against government decisions and their actions. With reducing the number of directly elected members, now China is in a position to control the legislative council and with that control Hongkong and its affairs. These steps taken by China indicate that now Hong Kongers have no right to decide on their own with these changes in Leg Co and National Security Law people become subservient to mainland China and their rights and freedom are curtailed.


Many countries are in support of these changes and many countries are against the new policy introduced by China is National Security Law, breaking down dissent of Hong Kongers, curbing the rights and freedom enjoyed by Hongkong even after it was handed over to China. Cuba represented [12] a group of 53 states backing the new China law and the United Kingdom speaking on behalf of 27 critical governments and both countries issued two statements. The first statement issued by Cuba in support of National Security Law as they believe that to maintain peace, stability, and bring prosperity, it is important to pass such a law. Another statement[13] issued by the U.K. is critical of the measures taken by Chinese authority, they show their concern that with this people have no right to dissent against government decisions and laws passed by it, if they are stood up against the government, they have to face harsher punishment and can be barred from standing up in the election. The U.K. also announced a visa scheme[14] for Hong Kongers for easy access and survival as it allows Hong Kongers to live in the U.K enjoying all rights previously enjoyed in Hongkong.


Hongkong was handed over to China after the completion of the lease with the Sino-British joint declaration, in which they agreed to run the administration of Hongkong by giving the status of Special Administrative Region, under one country two systems. They promised that Hong Kong would enjoy freedom as it earlier enjoyed. But with recent laws and changes in the legislative council, China itself vitiated from its point to give freedom & right as in democratic rights. The crackdown of rights of Hong Kongers shows that Hongkong is not independent to make their decision on their own, even they have to face harsher punishment if they dissent by treating them as a traitor, terrorist, and others. It undermines the Hong Kongers’ right to self-determination as promised by China before completing 50 years.

Author’s Name: Suruchi Kumari (Chanakya National Law University, Patna)

[1] Kenneth Pletcher, Opium Wars, BRITANNICA, (Feb. 15 ,2022,7: 20 PM), https://www.britannica.com/topic/Opium-Wars.

[2] Lydia Dunn, Hong Kong after the Sino British Declaration, 61 J.   RIIA   197, 197-204 (1985).https://www.jstor.org/stable/26174792.

[3]  THE INDIAN EXPRESS, https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/china-hone-kong-basic-law-explained-6423313/ (last visited May 27, 2020).

[4] BASIC LAW, https://www.basiclaw.gov.hk (last visited  July 1, 2010).

[5] QUARTZ, https://qz.com (last visited Nov. 7,2016).

[6] THE NEW YORK TIMES, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/20/world/asia/hong-kong-elections-democracy.html (last visited Sept. 24, 2021).

[7] Om Marathe, Explained: How new Hong Kong security law gives China more controls on city state, THE INDIAN EXPRESS (July 2, 2020 10:34:12AM), https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/china-hone-kong-basic-law-explained-6423313/

[8] Stanly Johny, What is China’s one country two systems policy? THE HINDU (Feb. 19,2022  13: 56 IST), https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/explained-what-is-chinas-one-country-two-systems-policy/article29279828.ece

[9] AMNESTY ORGANISATION, https://www.amnesty.org (last visited July 17, 2020).

[10]THEHINDU, https://www.thehindu.com/news/internhttps://www.thehindu.com/news/international/explained-what-is-chinas-one-country-two-systems-policy/article29279828.eceational/hong-kong-national-security-law-five-key-facts-you-need-to-know/article61689342.ece (last visited Dec. 3, 2021).

[11] THE ECONOMIC TIMES, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com (last visited Dec. 18, 2021).

[12] Eleanor Albert, Which Countries Support the New Hong Kong National Law?, THE DIPLOMAT (Feb. 16, 2022, 13: 15 PM), https://thediplomat.com .

[13] John Curtis, Hongkong: National Security Law and recent events, HOUSE OF COMMONS LIBRARY (Feb. 16, 2022, 14:55 PM), https://commonslibrary.parliament.

[14]INDIANEXPRESS, https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-what-is-special-uk-visa-scheme-for-hong-kong-residents-7168938/#:~:text=What%20is%20the%20special%20visa,fast%20track%20to%20UK%20citizenship (last visited Jan. 31, 2021).

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