The Informal Interpretation of the Hong Kong Basic Law: A Dialogic Approach

Under ‘One Country, Two Systems’ (OCTS), the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong has the final authority to interpret the Hong Kong Basic Law using a common law approach, while China’s sovereign authority – the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) – has the authority to interpret it using a socialist law approach. In order to maintain Hong Kong’s common law system as an intrinsic component of OCTS, this paper argues that the NPCSC should adopt an approach of self-restraint with regard to the interpretation of the Hong Kong Basic Law, unless the matter at hand is manifestly a matter relating to defence and foreign affairs or falls outside the limits of Hong Kong’s autonomy as specified by law. To this end, the present work further suggests that a dialogic mechanism – NPCSC’s informal interpretation, as practiced – can function as a bridge to reconcile common law with socialist law components under OCTS by following the principle of subsidiarity.