Law of Hong Kong

The law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has its foundation in the English common law system, inherited from being a former British colony and dependent territory. There are several sources of law, the primary ones being statutes enacted by the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and case law made by decisions of the courts of Hong Kong.

Since the handover in 1997, the constitutional framework is provided by the Hong Kong Basic Law, which is a piece of National Law of the People's Republic of China and has, practically, constitutional status in Hong Kong. The principle of ‘one country, two systems’ was enshrined in Article 5 of the Basic Law until at least 2047, which contrasts the ‘socialist system and policies’ and ‘the previous capitalist system and way of life’.

The Basic Law provides that the common law system shall be maintained. Some commentators described the theoretically hybrid system of civil law and common law as unique,[1] although there are similar arrangements all over the world. Other commentators point to the socialist law tradition instead of the civil law tradition.

Primary legislation in Hong Kong are usually known as ‘Ordinances’, instead of ‘Acts’. The published, consolidated copies of Ordinances are given chapter numbers in Laws of Hong Kong and in the official online database.

Some National Laws on foreign affairs and the national flag apply directly in Hong Kong by virtue of stipulations in Article 18 and Annex III of the Basic Law.[2] The imposition of the National Law on Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR has been authorized by a National People's Congress Decision which, in a practical sense, overrides the Basic Law.