What Will Happen to Hong Kong Kong after 2047?
18 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2014
Date Written: October 1, 2011
One of the most widely-debated questions among everyone who follows Hong Kong’s future is what will happen after the expiry on June 30, 2047 of the guarantees that Beijing made in relation to the first 50 years after Hong Kong's reversion to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997.
Many scholars have argued that the current "one country, two systems" arrangement, which allows Hong Kong to enjoy a high degree of autonomy within the framework of a constitutional document known as the Hong Kong Basic Law, will automatically come to an end on that date.
But this article, which contains the first detailed analysis of the legal significance of June 30, 2047 for Hong Kong, takes a contrary stance. It argues that radical change in Hong Kong immediately after June 30, 2047 is far from inevitable, or even necessarily the most likely scenario.
In reaching this conclusion, the article first argues that concerns about the validity of property rights (specifically, government land leases) beyond June 30, 2047 are overstated. Second, the article shows that, while further clarification may be considered desirable, perhaps even vital, as June 30, 2047 approaches, the existing provisions in the Hong Kong Basic Law could be interpreted as permitting the continuation of one country, two systems beyond that date. Third, the article demonstrates that, while one country, two systems has the potential to continue beyond June 30, 2047, what will become possible after June 30, 2047, if China so wishes, are fundamental changes to how one country, two systems is applied in Hong Kong. But, because the protections against China eroding one country, two systems even before that date are far less watertight than they appear at first sight, the article concludes that, even in this respect, the significance of June 30, 2047 is overstated.
This is the version of the article published in California Western International Law Journal, Vol. 42, No. 1, 2011 with a small number of revisions. A more updated paper by the author on this topic has subsequently been published as "Chapter 9: What Will Happen After 2047?" in Danny Gittings, "Introduction to the Hong Kong Basic Law" (Hong Kong University Press, 2013) at pages 303-314.
Keywords: Constitutional Law, Hong Kong, Basic Law, 2047, Land Leases
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