Dim Sum Surprise: Why the Hong Kong Model Won't Save Tibet
By the Editorial Board of The Tibetan Political Review
Proponents of the Middle Way policy have recently been placing increased hope on Chinese law. Exhibit A in this argument is Article 31 of the Chinese Constitution, which allows for the creation of Special Administrative Regions such as Hong Kong. The claim is that Chinese law already provides for the type of autonomy that Tibetans demand, and what’s missing is only political will from China to implement its own law.
There is a major problem with this view, unfortunately, and it is not the obvious ones of China’s lack of political will or the legal non-enforceability of the Chinese constitution.
Rather, the missing factor is that even for Hong Kong, autonomy under China’s Article 31 has always been understood to be only temporary. Hong Kong’s freedoms are scheduled to expire after a transitional period, when the territory will then be absorbed into the Chinese political system. Strangely, this factor is wholly ignored in the public analysis of whether the Hong Kong model has utility for Tibet.
Looking Closely at China’s Article 31
Article 31 was added to the 1982 Chinese Constitution for the purpose of easing Hong Kong and Macao (and possibly Taiwan) back under Chinese sovereignty. The inconvenient truth is that Hong Kong’s current status is simply a prelude to full incorporation into China. The Basic Law, which serves as Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, provides that Hong Kong’s “capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years”. This means that, come 2047, Hong Kong will no longer be protected by its autonomous arrangement.