British Influence on the Hong Kong Government

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According to scientists, there has been human activity on Hong Kong since the Neolithic and Paleolithic eras. However, the earliest recorded European man to travel there was a Portuguese man named Jorge Álvares who did not travel there until 1513. For many thousands of years, Hong Kong was subjected to the rule of the dynastic China. However, Britain gained the land of Hong Kong after defeating the Chinese army in the Opium Wars. Today, Hong Kong has a democratic government modeled very much after the British one. How did it get there? Why is it democratic? Why isn’t it included in the Chinese government? How did Britain come to play a part in a small country on the other side of the hemisphere? Ever since 1699, when the British East India Company made its first successful sea trip to the Hong Kong area. Hong Kong and Britain have depended upon each other as trade partners. After the Chinese defeat in the First Opium War (1839-1842), the British were granted control of the Hong Kong Island under the Treaty of Nanking. After the hostilities of the Second Opium War (1856-1858), Britain was also granted the Kowloon Peninsula at the 1860 Convention of Beijing. Britain used the Hong Kong land as a warehouse for the European trade and the colony flourished as a huge economic success during the 1800’s and 1900’s. After the Second World War, the Chinese government changed to a Communist state. Many of the Mainland Chinese citizens fled to Hong Kong and Taiwan a result. More than 150 years after the British first gained control of the Hong Kong Island, the British gave the rule of Hong Kong back to the Chinese government on July 1, 1997. However, Hong Kong has its own government separate from the People’s Republic of China through the Sino-British Joint Declarement [1]. This is under the system “One State, Two Systems” [8]. Under this, the Hong Kong people are allowed to retain their own political, judicial, and economic systems while participating in international agreements under the name “Hong Kong, China.” They must also be a part of the Chinese government when participating in foreign and defense affairs. Unfortunately, this paper is not on the history of the Hong Kong government, but rather on how British rule has influenced the parts of the government that Hong Kong is allowed to govern. It could be concluded just by looking at the forms of government displayed in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong that they are very similar. The British government is consisted of two parts, Parliament and the monarch. The monarch of Great Britain (currently Queen Elizabeth II) is in charge of state affairs while the Parliament is more concerned in government affairs [3]. Parliament is headed by the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown), who is chosen to the position by the current monarch, with members of the Cabinet chosen by the Prime Minister from the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Lords is primarily composed of the landed nobility of Britain while the House of Commons is composed of people elected to the position from the 646 electoral districts. However, while the Cabinet is chosen by the Prime Minister, his power comes from the majority support of the House of Commons. The House of Lords does little as a legislative body (as they can only delay the passing of a law passed by the House of Commons rather than veto it), but it does have some influence in the judiciary branch as a court of final appeal [5]. The government has strong ties to Parliament, partly because parliamentary debates and questions are involved in it, but mostly because the government owes its existence to Parliament. The government is pretty much made up of the members of Parliament. Unlike the United States, the British government does not have a Constitution written out in one single document. The Lord Chancellor is in charge of the judiciary branch of the government and does what the Supreme Court does in the United States...
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