British Influence on the Hong Kong Government
According to scientists, there has been human activity on Hong Kong since the Neolithic and Paleolithic eras. However, the earliest recorded European man to travel there was a Portuguese man named Jorge Alvares who did not travel there until 1513. For many thousands of years, Hong Kong was subjected to the rule of the dynastic China. However, Britain gained the land of Hong Kong after defeating the Chinese army in the Opium Wars. Today, Hong Kong has a democratic government modeled very much after the British one. How did it get there? Why is it democratic?
Why isn’t it included in the Chinese government? How did Britain come to play a part in a small country on the other side of the hemisphere? Ever since 1699, when the British East India Company made its first successful sea trip to the Hong Kong area. Hong Kong and Britain have depended upon each other as trade partners. After the Chinese defeat in the First Opium War (1839-1842), the British were granted control of the Hong Kong Island under the Treaty of Nanking. After the hostilities of the Second Opium War (1856-1858), Britain was also granted the Kowloon Peninsula at the 1860 Convention of Beijing.
Britain used the Hong Kong land as a warehouse for the European trade and the colony flourished as a huge economic success during the 1800’s and 1900’s. After the Second World War, the Chinese government changed to a Communist state. Many of the Mainland Chinese citizens fled to Hong Kong and Taiwan a result. More than 150 years after the British first gained control of the Hong Kong Island, the British gave the rule of Hong Kong back to the Chinese government on July 1, 1997. However, Hong Kong has its own government separate from the People’s Republic of China through the Sino-British Joint Declarement .
This is under the system “One State, Two Systems” . Under this, the Hong Kong people are allowed to retain their own political, judicial, and economic systems while participating in international agreements under the name “Hong Kong, China. ” They must also be a part of the Chinese government when participating in foreign and defense affairs. Unfortunately, this paper is not on the history of the Hong Kong government, but rather on how British rule has influenced the parts of the government that Hong Kong is allowed to govern.
It could be concluded just by looking at the forms of government displayed in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong that they are very similar. The British government is consisted of two parts, Parliament and the monarch. The monarch of Great Britain (currently Queen Elizabeth II) is in charge of state affairs while the Parliament is more concerned in government affairs . Parliament is headed by the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown), who is chosen to the position by the current monarch, with members of the Cabinet chosen by the Prime Minister from the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The House of Lords is primarily composed of the landed nobility of Britain while the House of Commons is composed of people elected to the position from the 646 electoral districts. However, while the Cabinet is chosen by the Prime Minister, his power comes from the majority support of the House of Commons. The House of Lords does little as a legislative body (as they can only delay the passing of a law passed by the House of Commons rather than veto it), but it does have some influence in the judiciary branch as a court of final appeal .
The government has strong ties to Parliament, partly because parliamentary debates and questions are involved in it, but mostly because the government owes its existence to Parliament. The government is pretty much made up of the members of Parliament. Unlike the United States, the British government does not have a Constitution written out in one single document. The Lord Chancellor is in charge of the judiciary branch of the government and does what the Supreme Court does in the United States .
Through this rather complicated but effective government, Britain has its own form of checks and balances, and as a result of this, has a working democracy. The Hong Kong government, on the other hand, has a head of government known as the Chief Executive. There are two councils of the Hong Kong government, the Executive Council and the Legislative Council . The Legislative Council is made up of 60 members, 30 of whom are chosen through geographical constituencies and 30 of whom are chosen by functional constituencies.
They are in charge of monitoring the government’s performance, as well as enacting, amending, or repelling any laws in accordance to the provisions of the Basic Laws and legal procedures. There are, however, even more duties of the Legislative Council that are more minor than the ones mentioned . The Executive Council is the other council involved in the Hong Kong government. The Executive Council primarily assists the Chief Executive in policy-making decisions. Members are appointed by the Chief Executive from the Principal officials of the executive authorities, members of the
Legislative Council, and other public figures. The Chief Executive must consult the Executive Council before making important policy decisions, introducing bills to the Legislative Council, making subordinate legislation, or dissolving the Legislative Council. If the Chief Executive does not accept the Executive Council’s majority ruling, he may place the specific reasons on file. The Judiciary branch is basically in charge of making sure Hong Kong remains within the common law system. The Court of Final Appeal is the highest ranking court in Hong Kong with the Chief Justice as the head .
Basically, the Judiciary branch is in charge of judging and interpreting the laws that the Legislature branch passes. The Executive Council makes much of the policy, which must in turn be accepted by the majority of the Legislature Council. Through this system, Hong Kong is also a democracy with a set of checks and balances to make sure no one person or branch has all the power. Why does the Hong Kong government follow the British model as opposed to the Chinese model since the Chinese are in control of Hong Kong again?
At the time that Britain gave Hong Kong back to China, it seemed to the Hong Kong government that it would be too much work to work out all differences between Hong Kong and China about China’s Communist form of government. As a result, the China government decided that it would simply be easier to let Hong Kong be a separate government. The existing Hong Kong government was modeled after the British government, only without a monarch. Under the “One State, Two Systems” structure, Hong Kong follows state affairs and has its own separate government . Hong Kong’s strong British roots show greatly in its current government structure.
Both governments have two main law implementing groups, the Executive and Legislative Councils in Hong Kong and the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Where the British Prime Minister in England presides over the House of Commons, the Hong Kong Chief Executive sits as the head of the Executive Council. Both of these people are very influential in the law-making process and both of them get to appoint members for councils in their respective countries. In Hong Kong, the Chief Executive appoints members to the Executive Council and in Britain, the Prime Minister appoints members to the Cabinet.
A very important similarity is the use of checks and balances in both governments, and strong democracies. Although the British democracy has been around longer, the Hong Kong government is in itself quite an impressive one. There are a strong percentage of people voting and the system of checks and balances has helped the government flourish with no one person holding all the power. Although many of the people of Hong Kong view July 1st, 1997 as a huge turning point in the Hong Kong history, in reality, the turnover of Hong Kong to China resulted in very little overall change.
Many of Hong Kong’s most famous landmarks are still named after British monarchs and names, such as Victoria Harbor, Jordan, and the Peak. Language is a large part of cultures and the fact that English is the second most spoken official language of the area (Cantonese is the main one) shows how important and influential the British rule has been on Hong Kong. Hong Kong kept its democratic government modeled after the British Parliament and general government. Hong Kong and British both have elaborate systems of checks and balance.
All of these reasons show how little Hong Kong has changed since China was put in charge of the affairs of Hong Kong. The only real things that have changed are an increase in the amount of people from mainland China in the Hong Kong Island areas and military support provided by China, since Hong Kong has never had a reason to uphold its military rule (Britain had taken care of its colony before and China now holds the same job). British colonization in China has played a huge part in the democratization of the Eastern hemisphere, especially in Hong Kong.
It can thus be concluded that British rule has changed the Hong Kong government for the better. Bibliography 1. “Background Note: Hong Kong. ” U. S. Department of State: Diplomacy in Action. March 2009. 13 June 2009 . 2. “Government Structure. ” ??????? (www. gov. hk). May 2009. 13 July 2009 < http://www. gov. hk/en/about/govdirectory/govstructure. htm>. 3. Directgov. 4 July 2009. UK Government. 14 June 2009 [http://www. direct. gov. uk/en/index. htm]. 4. Government in Britain. 4 June 2005. 14 June 2009 [http://www. britannia. com/gov/]. 5. Mount, Steve.
Constitutional Topic: Martial Law. 30 November, 2001. U. S. Constitution. 15 June 2009 < http://www. usconstitution. net/consttop_sepp. html#britain>. 6. Legislative Council. Hong Kong Government. 15 July 2009 . 7. Executive Council. Hong Kong Government. 15 July 2009 . 8. Chui, James. “China’s One Country Two Systems Concept – The Hong Kong Experience and Implications for Taiwan” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Town & Country Resort and Convention Center, San Diego, California, USA, Mar 22, 2006 . 2009-05-25