History, economy and foundation of law of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is an economic focal point in Asia with a population of approximately 6.9 million people.

Hong Kong was seized by England from the Chinese in three stages:

In 1841, Hong Kong Island together with half of the harbour was ceded following the Opium War (The Treaty of Nanking);

the seizing of the Kowloon peninsula in 1860 together with the remainder of the harbour (The Peking Convention 1860); and

the New Territories, accounting for 92% of the territory's land, were leased to Britain in 1898 under a 99-year lease (The Peking Convention 1898).

In 1842 Hong Kong was declared a free port and economic centre. The use of the English legal system in Hong Kong provided a stable legal foundation and made Hong Kong the only Chinese city to have a common law system. These factors combined with a low tax regime underpinned Hong Kong's success and transformation into a modern metropolitan city and leading financial centre.

Hong Kong reverted to
Mainland China in 1997 at the end of the 99-year lease for the New Territories. A 'One Country, Two Systems' principle was adopted. Under it, even though Hong Kong became part of the People's Republic of China (PRC), the socialist system of the PRC would not be practiced, and Hong Kong's previous capitalist system would remain unchanged for 50 years. The Basic Law was drafted by the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), a PRC government body. The Basic Law is similar to a mini-constitution for Hong Kong and took effect on 1 July 1997. All systems and policies practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) must be based on the Basic Law.

The purpose of the
Basic Law is to:

establish a high degree of autonomy for the HKSAR;

preserve executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including the power of final adjudication (but the power of final interpretation of the Basic Law rests with the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC));

leave the previous laws basically unchanged;

protect fundamental rights; and

supplement a progressive development towards a fully elected democratic legislature, subject to review in 2007; this review has subsequently been postponed until 2012 at the earliest.

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