Hong Kong Legal System
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2. What is the influence of the Basic Law on the Hong Kong Legal System?

The Basic Law of the HKSAR was enacted by the National People's Congress in accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. It is similar to a mini-constitution for the HKSAR. It took effect on 1 July 1997 on the establishment of the HKSAR. The most prominent feature of the Basic Law is the underlying principle of "one country, two systems" whereby the socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the HKSAR and the previous capitalist system and way of life is to remain unchanged for 50 years.

Under the Basic Law, all the laws previously in force in Hong Kong (including common law and statues, etc.) shall be maintained except for any that contravene the Basic Law and subject to any amendment by the HKSAR legislature. National laws of the People's Republic of China shall not be applied in the HKSAR except for a number of such laws relating to defence and foreign affairs.

The interpretation and amendment of the Basic Law

Article 158 of the Basic Law provides that:

"The power of interpretation of this law shall be vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress shall authorise the courts of the HKSAR to interpret on their own, in adjudicating cases, the provisions of this Law which are within the limits of autonomy of the Region.

The courts of the HKSAR may also interpret other provisions of this Law in adjudicating cases. However, if the courts of the Region, in adjudicating cases, need to interpret the provisions of this Law concerning affairs which are the responsibility of the Central People's Government, or concerning the relationship between the Central Authorities and the Region, and if such interpretation will affect the judgments on the cases, the courts of the Region shall, before making their final judgments which are not appealable, seek an interpretation of the relevant provisions from the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress through the Court of Final Appeal of the Region. When the Standing Committee makes an interpretation of the provisions concerned, the courts of the Region, in applying those provisions, shall follow the interpretation of the Standing Committee. However, judgments previously rendered shall not be affected.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress shall consult its Committee for the Basic Law of the HKSAR before giving an interpretation of this Law."

The power of amendment of the Basic Law is vested in the National People's Congress. The powers to propose bills for amendments to the Basic Law are respectively vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the State Council and the HKSAR.

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