Hong Kong is a country of three separate territories granted to the United Kingdom under
three different arrangements. The nation was annexed to the United Kingdom after the opium
war under the treaty of Nanking in the year 1842. This arrangement was followed by Convention
of Peking of the year 1860 which ceded Kowloon to the United Kingdom. The last arrangement
occurred in 1898 an area adjoining both Kowloon and China, which was called the New
Territories which was leased to the United Kingdom. However, in the year 1919, China
demanded the return of Hong Kong during the Paris Peace Conference, but the attempt was
unsuccessful. On 19th December 1984, Britain and China signed a joint declaration that
announced that after 1997, Hong Kong would become an independent Administrative Area of
the China. The fundamental law came into use on 1st July 1997, and Sino-British Joint
Declaration drafted it. The basic law provides the primary rules of the PRC toward the Hong
Kong. The principle of ‘one country, two systems’ was stipulated in the declaration.
Nevertheless, the economic and social system would be maintained for fifty years. After Hong
Kong gained sovereignty, noticeable impacts have been reflected in different departments of
Hong Kong government including the criminal justice system.
After the change of sovereignty, Hong Kong courts were given the mandate to
interoperate provisions of basic laws that do not relate to issues concerning Hong Kong’s
sovereignty during the process of judgement. The constitution fetters this authority in article
158(3) of the basic laws. The article articulates that the court should seek a compulsory
interpretation from the NPCSC during interpretation and it must provide full satisfaction of
specific conditions of basic law. For instances in the situation of Director of Immigration Vs.Ng
Ka Ling, final appeal court articulated the policies into two-phase approach on article 158(3)
HONG KONG'S CHANGE OF SOVEREIGNTY IN 1997 3
(Yung, Mok, & Mo, 2016). Phase one was to ensure that the interpretation satisfies the set
specific conditions and stage two was to test the satisfaction of necessity conditions.
China reacted to this separation of Hong Kong by threatening to deny contracts entered
into by the country which it has not yet been approved. This threat greatly affected Hong Kong,
for instance, a 1.2-billion-dollar contract was to be terminated. Moreover, it shocked the
confidence of people of Hong Kong and sent the stock marketing stumbling. Since the nation
was young and it decided to split from the mother country, it encountered adverse economic
impacts before it gained muscles to stand alone. China had imposed this threat to harsh Hong
Kong so that it can reunite back again to China but the plan was unsuccessful.
Since the laws are mandated by politics, after the separation of Hong Kong politics
affected law, and criminal justice in particular (Nelid, 2015). Nevertheless, politicians in return
are affected by other factors such as mass media, donors, lobbyists and business, criminal
justices are also affected by this factors indirectly. The political leaders appoint the heads of
courts such as judges hence political factors may influence the process. After 1997 sovereignty
petition, the criminal justice system of Hong Kong was dramatically affected by the reservation
of the court heads. In many countries such as the United States, the appointment of judges has
been affected by political influence.
Secondly, the creation of laws in Hong Kong was affected by the change of Hong Kong
sovereignty. The creation of law is profoundly influenced by political factors such as party
affiliations which has to grandstand for the public. The laws are created not only in the public
interest of the public but also political interest. It can turn into specifically distinguished during
times of media panic in the run of leadership seats to get positive media attention. After Hong
Kong gained independence, it gained the power to create and amend its laws, and since it has a
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HONG KONG'S CHANGE OF SOVEREIGNTY IN 1997 4
political affiliation, it was directly and indirectly affected. Many countries worldwide face this
challenge of political influence during the creation and amendments laws.
Thirdly, the criminal justice was affected by the change of sovereignty in the prosecution
department. Political leaders highly influence prosecutors who are the case controllers in courts.
Prosecutors are appointed by the leaders and they are forced to maintain good relation with them.
The prosecutors may be forced to tow a political line to ensure that they defend their re-
appointment. The criminal justice in Hong Kong has reported a political influence in the
prosecution department where they have failed to carry out the necessary investigations relating
cases involving readers.
Another impact of the change of sovereignty is the courting ruling process. Judges carry
out their court procession following nation constitution. However, the judges were influenced by
the political factors. In some instances, the make an impartial decision as a result trying to
maintain and defend their position. The judges in high courts, they are appointed by political
leaders and any case involving those leaders may force the judges to alter the transparency of the
court. Matters such as criminal law and real estates may fall under political grounds, and the
ruling of the courts will be influenced.
Change of sovereignty in Hong Kong also affected the formulation of policies in parole
boards. This board is responsible for deciding whether a prisoner should be released from jail on
parole after serving at least a minimum portion of their punishment as outlined in the sentencing
judgment (O'Neill & Pierson, 2011). The political leaders appoint the members of the board, and
thus their ruling must be in line with the leader’s interest to avoid demotions. In some occasions,
the leaders put pressure on the board members to make a certain decision according to their will
or interest. Since the parole board members are appointed by political leaders in Hong Kong,
HONG KONG'S CHANGE OF SOVEREIGNTY IN 1997 5
there is a vast influence of the politics in the formulation of criminal justices’ policies in the
In a nut cell, the change of sovereignty in the state of Hong Kong evoked a number of
impacts to the criminal justice system. Basic laws have been the stepping stone of Hong Kong
judiciary system and it outline the fundamental policies and laws to be followed. The basic laws
provided the general principle relating to the region of Hong Kong.
HONG KONG'S CHANGE OF SOVEREIGNTY IN 1997 6
Nelid, S. (2015, December 13). The Ways Politics Influences Criminal Justice. Retrieved from
O'Neill, J., & Pierson, B. (2011). Parole board: Montana. New York, NY: A & E Television
Yung, J., Mok, J., & Mo, C. (2016). Legal systems in Hong Kong. Retrieved from