Cooking the Rice without Cooking the Goose: The Rule of Law, the Battle over Business, and the Quest for Prosperity in Hong Kong After 1997

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Book Chapter

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In the long and contentious process of crafting arrangements for Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule, there has been a consensus on the importance of preserving Hong Kong's prosperity and the distinctly capitalist system that has produced it. All the major players – the People's Republic of China (PRC), the United Kingdom, the colonial government, and Hong Kong groups ranging from PRC surrogates to business interests to democracy activists – have agreed that the transition from British colony to Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) must not, in the popular phrase, “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” They have also unanimously declared that preserving prosperity requires maintaining the “rule of law” in the territory after July 1, 1997. Beneath this common ground, however, lie serious fault lines. Participants in the wrangling over the territory's future order have differed fundamentally over what the “rule of law” means, how it is linked to prosperity, and what maintaining it will require. How uncompromising and substantively broad must legality be in order to secure the territory's material success? Is narrowly economic legality possible without a rule of law that extends to more “political” matters? What mix of SAR autonomy and continuity with the past colonial order will provide for a rule of law that will sustain Hong Kong's prosperity? The answers to these questions from Beijing, London, and Hong Kong suggest three paradigms of a “rule of law” for the territory.

Publication Title

Hong Kong Under Chinese Rule: The Economic and Political Implications of Reversion