2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People’s Republic of China, and also the 30th anniversary of the School of Law of City University of Hong Kong (“CityU”). To celebrate these two significant anniversaries, the Centre for Chinese and Comparative Law of CityU and the Implementation of the Hong Kong Basic Law Research Project jointly organised an international conference with a theme of the “Evolution of Constitutional Order of the HKSAR: Theoretical and Comparative Perspectives” on 26 and 27 October 2017.
This conference gathered 28 experts and scholars from Hong Kong, Macau, Mainland China, Denmark, France, India, Montréal, Scotland and Spain to conduct a serious and systematic review of the evolution of the HKSAR’s new constitutional order, and to forecast its future development. The conference also examined the constitutional arrangements with regard to central-local relations and various models of autonomy as adopted in other parts of the world, and discussed their suitability to the HKSAR.
The whole conference was divided into six panels. While the themes discussed in all panels are important and controversial to the HKSAR (such as the core-periphery relationship in China; the constitutional role of the HKSAR’s common law judiciary in the civil law system of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”); the unitary system as adopted in the PRC; the relationships between the PRC Constitution, the Basic Law and the “one country, two systems” principle; the future of HKSAR’s constitution, as well as issues relating to localism vs nationalism, and “one country, two systems”), Panels three and four were the highlights of this conference. In these two panels, six overseas speakers and one local speaker were invited to share their research and experience on constitutional arrangements with regard to central-local relations and various models of local autonomy as adopted in other parts of the world, including:
- Issues relating to the sovereignty of Caledonia;
- Kashmir’s autonomous governance system;
- The autonomy enjoyed by Quebec;
- The Scottish Devolution;
- The Spanish constitutional arrangements with regard to central-local relations in the complex country of Spain;
- The self-governance of Greenland; and
- The autonomy enjoyed by Åland under Finland’s constitutional arrangement.
Throughout the whole conference, the atmosphere was enthusiastic: the 28 speakers delivered excellent and insightful presentations and the audience actively participated in the Q & A sessions, giving critical comments and putting forward challenging questions to speakers.
In short, this conference perhaps was the most “internationalised” and eye-opening constitutional/Basic Law conference we have ever had in Hong Kong. It was both thought-provoking and inspirational. Particularly, the various autonomy models in other countries as introduced by the overseas speakers no doubt will serve as an important foundation for future research relating to central-local relations between the Chinese Central Government and the HKSAR.