Hong Kong’s Common Law Constitutionalism: From Assertion to Denial

Hong Kong had been hailed as a liberal enclave within China. A contributing factor had been the constitutional jurisdiction of Hong Kong’s common law courts applying the Hong Kong Basic Law. This paper describes, in three phases, developments of this jurisdiction to date. The first phase (1997-2001) involved the founding of jurisdiction through interacting with the Chinese Central Authorities that hold the power of interpretation of the Basic Law. The second phase (2001-2014) showed the Hong Kong courts resolving constitutional disputes with tools that avoided potential Central-local and local inter-branch conflicts. The third phase (2014-2021) found the Hong Kong courts acceding to Central improvements of comprehensive jurisdiction over Hong Kong by, among others, apparently denying kompetenz-kompetez. These three phases appear to align with changes of senior judicial leaders in Hong Kong.