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Constitutional Background

On 1 July 1997, China reclaimed Hongkong. Hong Kong did not establish a democratic tradition during 140 years of British colonial rule; even the Legislative Council's policymaking was impeded by the Governor's colonial administration, advised by an un-political Executive Council. Suffrage was limited to some 70,000 professionals until recently.

China promised to allow for at least 50 more years of capitalist economy in Hongkong, but most well-off citizens ackquired Canadian, US-American, and Australian citizenship and some firms relocated their headquarters to the Bermudas or Singapore and their resources to China's mainland and Shanghai.

Before 1997, three institutions have basically ruled Hongkong's society and economy under the guidance of Governor Chris Patten: The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the Jardine Matheson trade house, and the Hongkong Jockey Club.

History and News

  • 14 July 2003: Demonstrations force chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to delay implementation of the controversial anti-subversion law.
  • 8 July 1997: The provisional legislature stops deliberation on old bills and instead issues retroactive legislation that takes back the promise of a right to abode to mainland children of Hong Kong parents.  This right was entrenched in the Basic Law (Art. 24 (2) 3)).  Announcements for the 1998 elections limit 20 of 60 seats to direct election in geographical constituencies and 40 to nomination by business elites.
  • 1 July 1997: Hong falls back to China. China replaces the Legislative Council with a provisional legislature which basically is an institution under the direction of the new chief executive Tung Chee-hwa
  • 9 April 1997: Chinese Government-in-waiting proposes changes to civil liberties laws that will prohibit political groups from having links with or accepting advice from foreign organisations and ban members from soliciting or accepting funds abroad. Political parties will also have to obtain approval from the authorities to operate and police will have the power to refuse applications for political protests. Under the proposed laws, political parties could be banned if they are deemed to breach, among other things, "national security" and "public safety". Organisers of demonstrations of more than 30 people will have to apply seven days in advance and receive police approval. 
  • 17 Sep 1995: First democratic elections of the Legislative Council (Legco) produced a majority for democratic candidates. The DP's (Democratic Party's) leader Martin Lee will become influential in the Council. 
  • 1994: First democratic elections of 19 District Councils. 
  • 1992: Chris Patten, as the new Britsh Governor, starts democratic reforms. 
  • 1989: Hong Kong's biggest ever marches against the Tiananmen massacre in Bejing. 
  • 1988: Governor Sir David Wilson postponed first direct elections to the Legislative Council. 
  • 1986: 70% of Hong Kong population opposed China's plans to build a Nuclear Power Plant in Daya Bay, i.e., close to the border.
  • 1984: Joint declaration sets 1 July 1997 as the date for handing back Hong Kong.

For methodology see: Comparing Constitutions and International Constitutional Law.
© 1994 - December 16th, 2010 / For corrections please contact A. Tschentscher.