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Is Hong Kong China

    Fifty-three countries–most of them involved in infrastructure projects along the Beijings BRI–signed statements before the Legislative Council in July 2020 supporting Hong Kongs Basic Law, whereas just twenty-seven countries signed statements opposing it. This is not a new stance by China, but preparing for it is another example of Chinese determination to enforce its interpretations of history and events, and inculcate patriotism, as it strengthens its control of Hong Kong following mass protests calling for democracy in 2019. Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong would continue as an autonomous special administrative region of the PRC, with its own currency, legal system, and parliamentary system. Hong Kong maintains its own money, passports, and channels for immigration, as well as its own legal system, but the chain of command leads directly back to the Peoples Republic of China.

    The Central Government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs manage diplomatic matters, but Hong Kong maintains its ability to have separate economic and cultural relations with foreign nations. The PRC allows Hong Kong to participate as a member-at-large in some intergovernmental bodies, such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Health Organization; and to engage in some commercial-related agreements as the Hong Kong, China. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the Peoples Republic of China, which has been broadly free to run its affairs on its own, under one country, two systems, the national unification policy developed by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s. China agreed to rule Hong Kong based on one country, two systems, in which Hong Kong will have a high degree of autonomy, with the exception of external affairs and defense, for the next 50 years.

    China eventually took over Hong Kong in 1997, with a one country, two systems deal, which for 50 years would maintain a separate economic, political, and judicial system for the city compared with the one of mainland China. Under terms that saw the former British colony returned to Beijing in 1997, Beijing promised to preserve the way of life of the city, including civil liberties and political freedoms that were unavailable in mainland China, for at least 50 years, according to one country, two systems principles. In September 1984, after years of negotiations, the British and the Chinese signed an official agreement endorsing a return, in exchange for a commitment by China to maintain Hong Kongs capitalist system. The Chinese-British Joint Declaration, signed 19 December 1984, cleared the way for the reversion of Hong Kong to China, which took place 1 July 1997.

    In the late 20th century–with China reluctant to renew its 99-year lease, and Hong Kong unviable without the New Territories–Britain entered long, often controversial negotiations with China on terms for returning Hong Kong to Chinese control. In 1898, in an effort to impose British control on Kowloon, the British granted a further lease on the territory known as the New Territories, promising to hand the extra land back to China after 99 years. The 99-year lease ended in 1997, when the United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to mainland China as a special administrative region (SAR), called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the Peoples Republic of China (HKSAR). In 1972, only months after Chinas UN seat was transferred to China by the government of the Republic of China, who fled to Taiwan in a civil war in 1949, the government moved to exclude Hong Kong and Macao, which returned to Chinese rule in 1999, from a UN list of colonies, effectively stripping them of the right of self-determination.

    Mainland China is governed by the Communist Party of China, which has jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five self-governing regions, four directly controlled municipalities, and both the Hong Kong and Macao sars. Hong Kong is composed of Hong Kong Island, initially given to the UK by China in 1842, southern portions of the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters (Ngong Shuen) Island (now joined with mainland), which were given in 1860, and the New Territories, comprising mainland areas lying mostly in the north, along with 230 large and small offshore islands — all leased by China for 99 years between 1898 and 1997.

    Multinational corporations and banks — many of whom have maintained regional headquarters in Hong Kong — historically used Hong Kongs location as a gateway for conducting business in Beijing, partly because of its proximity to the worlds second largest economy and because of its British Common Law-based legal system. The former British colony has been one of the most cosmopolitan cities, but the protests and COVID restrictions mean this advantage is waning…Investors feel less legal security, as they do not know whether Hong Kongs justice system is still neutral, whereas the Chinese legal system is riddled with gray areas. In a survey conducted last year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of Hong Kong, over 40% of foreigners said that they planned to leave or were considering doing so, mostly due to concerns about the harsh National Security Law that Beijing passed in 2020, tough COVID restrictions limiting international travel, and the grim outlook for future competitiveness in the former British colony. The administration of former US president Donald J. Trump has sanctioned Chinese officials it says are undermining Hong Kongs autonomy, including Carrie Lam; restricted defence equipment exports to Hong Kong; and begun to withdraw Hong Kongs special trade status.

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