Just the Facts

Five Facts on Why Hong Kong is Different from Other Cities in China

By No Labels
August 22, 2019 | Blog

Protests in Hong Kong are escalating. The protests erupted in an effort to maintain Hong Kong’s autonomy from China, which differentiates it from other cities in China. Here are the facts.

Hong Kong was a British colony from 1841 until 1997.

China ceded Hong Kong to Britain in 1841 after Britain occupied Hong Kong in an effort to invade China. It was agreed upon in 1898 that Britain would have control over Hong Kong until 1997. A formal agreement between China and Britain was signed in 1984 that approved Hong Kong’s 1997 transfer back to China. The agreement was contingent upon China’s permission to allow Hong Kong to keep its capitalist economic system.[1]

Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions (SARs) in China.

Similar to Hong Kong, Macau was a colony. Macau was occupied by Portugal until 1999. China made deals with both Britain and Portugal during the 1980s that the two SARs would be semi-autonomous for a 50-year period. During this time, the SARs are governed by Basic Laws, which are exclusive constitutions for their regions. The Basic Laws allow Hong Kong and Macau to retain their own executive, legislative, and judicial systems.[2]

It is unclear what will happen to Hong Kong at the end of its semi-autonomous 50-year period.

Hong Kong and China currently have a “one country, two systems” framework that allows residents of Hong Kong freedoms that are not enjoyed by residents of the Chinese mainland. But neither the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration nor Hong Kong’s Basic Law says what will happen to one country, two systems after 2047.[3]

Basic Law says Hong Kong should aim to elect its leader by a popular vote. 

Basic Law does not include a deadline for when the people of Hong Kong can begin to elect their leader by a popular vote. Elections are currently decided through an election committee. There are 1,200 members from Hong Kong’s main professional sectors that select the chief of executives. Changes to the political process must be approved by the Hong Kong government and the People’s Republic of China’s legislative body.[4]

Hong Kong has a capitalist economy, while China has an economic system that it describes as “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.”

The Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Index of Economic Freedom scores Hong Kong as the world’s freest economy. China is ranked as the 100th freest economy by the same index.[5][6] Hong Kong has some of the lowest taxes in the world and its tax system is considered the most business-friendly in the world by the World Bank.[7]

[1] https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/hong-kong-returned-to-china
[2] https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/special-administrative-region.asp
[3] https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Hong-Kong-s-year-2047-problem
[4] https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/democracy-hong-kong
[5] https://www.heritage.org/index/country/hongkong
[6] https://www.heritage.org/index/country/china
[7] https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/hong-kong-economy/article/2188256/hong-kongs-tax-system-explained-why-levies-are-so

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