Legal Structures in Hong Kong


I am staying in Hong Kong for a few days before traveling to Kunming, China for my Fulbright in-country orientation. While touring the city, I came upon several legal structures from the period when Britain controlled Hong Kong. I have posted three of them here. First is Government House, residence of the British Governor until the hand over of Hong Kong to China in 1997. It is now the residence of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Second is the former Central Police Station, located interestingly on Hollywood Road. Finally is the Magistracy, which formerly housed the Magistrates Court. These last two structures were part of a compound that also included Victoria Prison and were linked by underground tunnels. I read online that you could be arrested, tried, and serve time, all without seeing the light of day!

Seeing these buildings made me think about the current structure of the Hong Kong legal system. Despite being a part of China, Hong Kong is actually designated a Special Administrative Region, which under the 1984 treaty signed by Britain and China created the "one country, two systems" principle. This treaty created the Basic Law, which for Hong Kong operates as form of constitution. The Basic Law maintains the legal system created under British rule, including the existing court-made common law and rules of equity, and the right to self governance except on matters of foreign affairs and defense. One interesting consequence of the one country, two systems principle is that I have not formally entered China yet. When I leave Hong Kong to travel to Kunming, I will be entering the People's Republic of China for the first time.