Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


John M. Rogers

First Page



This Article explores the possible nature of Hong Kong's Constitution after July, 1997, and discusses alternative ways of interpreting and enforcing the constitution. The author first proposes three definitions for the word "constitution'" (1) how political power is actually "constituted," (2) a written document and (3) a referent for disputes. The author then explains Hong Kong's unusual constitutional status where Hong Kong will be governed under a written constitution the Basic Law. and at the same time, many aspects of the Basic Law will be "guaranteed" by an international agreement, the Joint Declaration. The author proceeds to evaluate the means by which domestic bodies, such as the judiciary, may play a role in ensuring adherence to the written terms of the Basic Law. However, because the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress retains ultimate interpretative power, the author proposes that the Joint Declaration may have more influence on China's actions than Hong Kong's Basic Law. The author then examines the executive and legislative structure of Hong Kong and its influence on political responsiveness in Hong Kong after July, 1997. Reflecting upon recent Chinese resistance to institutionalized political responsibility in China, the author suggests that international legal arguments may be the more effective legal means of ensuring political responsiveness.