Legal pluralism: a means of sustaining liberal constitutionalism within authoritarianism? The case of China and Hong Kong

In this paper, legal pluralism is defined as the existence of conflicting rules within a legal system on an institution‘s legal power, with no other institution possessing the legal power to resolve that conflict. An example of such pluralism is found in the interaction between European law and member state law: the ECJ claims that EU law trumps national constitutions and that it has the final say in case of conflict, while some national courts claim otherwise. We argue that legal pluralism provides a refreshing perspective for conceptualizing the relationship between the legal orders of China and Hong Kong. It explains how that relationship could be understood as pluralist and why it would be desirable for the relationship to develop in a pluralist direction. The case of China/Hong Kong suggests that pluralism can be a means of sustaining a subnational legal system that respects liberal values within a larger, Leninist legal system.