China-Hong Kong Dual System: Twenty-Three Years of Uncertainty and Broken Promises

  • Henry B. Ogunjewo Department of History and Strategic Studies, University of Lagos
Keywords: “One Nation-Two Systems”, Sovereignty, Sino-British Joint Declaration, Broken Promises, Brexit


Despite the 1997 China’s promises to the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and the international community that it would operate a “One Nation-Two Systems” for fifty years, ending in 2047, this article submits that the last twenty-three years have been characterized by broken promises, failed covenants, unnecessary political meddling, judicial undercutting, press gagging and restrictions on freedom of speech giving rise to protests, advocacy, instability and political tension in the territory. The UK, which should have intervened by reminding China of the July 1, 1997 pledges and accord and, in absolute terms, compel China to uphold the agreements, herself has been burdened and baffled with the BREXIT deals  and procedures leading first to the unexpected loss of the Conservative majority in the parliament due to Theresa May’s political misperception/miscalculations. BREXIT, which has consumed the second Prime Minister after David Cameron despite the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) or Northern Ireland’s alliance on the platform of which May retained her seat with a pledge of additional $1.3b budget allocation for Northern Ireland’s pensions, social security etc. May herself lost out in the Brexit struggle giving rise to Boris Johnson. China has taken advantage of that distraction to violate the agreements with the UK over Hong Kong. This article argues that the people of Hong Kong have already sensed a consistent decline in China’s resolve to allow freedom of speech, democracy, freedom of the press, uninterrupted judicial process, fundamental human rights and the British educational system. Officially, the “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China” was expected to undergo a smooth transfer from the UK to China but the article concludes that while the UK has kept her promise to transfer HK to China after Ninety-Nine years, China has refused to keep to the post transfer treaty. The promise of fifty years has been violated in less than twenty years. The UK on the other hand has broken the ethical/moral covenant to keep China on the covenant lane. Aside pockets of condemnations, no sanctions have been recommended or applied for failure/default by China.