Hong Kong’s ‘One Country, Two Systems’ formula has been hailed as an unprecedented political experiment in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for how it formulates a semi-autonomous jurisdiction within a unitary, single-party state. While the formula has remained constitutionally valid two decades after its implementation, it has been trapped in a tense relationship in actual practice. This article considers the city as a subnational island jurisdiction (SNIJ) and examines its scope for autonomy within and under an authoritarian sovereign state. It argues that the PRC’s central government, prompted by the city’s rising pro-democracy activism and its nascent pro-independence force, has put intensifying emphasis on the ‘one country’ principle by blurring the boundaries between the offshore enclave and the mainland through economic integration, connective infrastructures and legal harmonization. As a result, there is an increasingly blurred line between the ‘two systems’, structured and fostered by the enormous cross-border capital and people flow, although at times moderated and slowed down by local capitalist imperatives and social activism to resist homogenization. Our findings suggest that the contestation between autonomy and sovereign control cannot be read in purely constitutional terms but must be considered within the changing socioeconomic and legal context.
- Hong Kong
- One Country Two Systems (OCTS)
- Subnational island jurisdiction (SNIJ)