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Constitutional Law Hong Kong: Freedom of Expression

Introduction

The constitutional law of Hong Kong is the Basic Law that applies in the Special Administrative Region. Hong Kong is part of the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong, which is headed by the Chief Executive, is autonomous. The region was under British rule but in 1997, the region was united with the People’s Republic of China and was to be ruled using the basic law. After the departure of the colonialists, the region was to remain capitalist and continue to practice it for some time. The mainland was socialist and remained socialist. Capitalism advocates for freedom of expression, which is one of the fundamental rights. Freedom of expression implies that an individual has a right to information and ideas. The region was granted freedom to be autonomous and to practice the basic law. The region is still under Basic law and has its judiciary system. This essay will discuss the Freedom of expression as a fundamental right and that it lies in the civil society and of Hong Kong system and way of life. It will also discuss the Basic Law and case law of Hong Kong.

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Freedom of expression as a fundamental right in Hong Kong

The people’s republic of China has two Special Administrative areas, among them is Hong Kong. Macau is the second special administrative area. Each administrative area is autonomous; hence, it is one country under two systems. Hong Kong is different from mainland China and the majority of the population is Chinese. Hong Kong’s judicial system, which is independent, implements the Basic law. The diversity between the People’s Republic of China and the Hong Kong Region emanates from their differences in ideology. People’s Republic of China’s socialist ideology disagrees with the democratic ideas that Hong Kong holds. To solve the challenge, the People’s Republic of China granted Hong Kong autonomy to practice capitalism and practice democracy as stated in the Basic Law.

In 1997, the British handed over the government to the Peoples Republic of China, making Hong Kong the first Special Administrative area. Hong Kong’s basic law, which was composed in the constitution, was adopted. The Basic Law Article 27 protects the freedom of expression. It also guarantees freedom of speech. Article 39 of the basic law allows the control of freedom of expression if control is provided by the law and goes hand in hand with international agreements on human rights. Freedom of expression is also provided in international human rights.

Hong Kong’s Basic Law stipulates that, except in international affairs and military defense, Hong Kong remains sovereign. The People’s Republic of China respects human rights. However, there are issues that raise concerns such as the freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is essential for the democratic government of Hong Kong. The civil society is entitled to the decision-making process of their region. To participate in the decision-making process in public, civil society is at liberty to access information and express ideas. Freedom of expression, therefore, enables civil society to be accountable by participating in the decision-making process.

Civil society has demonstrated and raised concerns on human rights and social ills in mainland China. Violation of the freedom of expression is evident from the actions of the police who are non-tolerant to protestors. Hong Kong journalists enjoy the freedom of expression. The features and published information goes hand in hand with the freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Unlike in mainland China, Hong Kong enjoys the use of the internet without the interruption of the censorship and surveillance of the Great Wall of China.

Hong Kong, as one of the special administrative regions, has its own flag and emblem. The People’s Republic of China also has a flag. Concerns have been raised about the adoption of both flags. The People’s Republic of China’s flag is a symbol of nationality while the Hong Kong flag symbolized the one country two system rules in China. Hong Kong is a democracy and the flag can be raised so that they express their region.

Freedom of expression has been on the decline since 1997. The process has been gradual and will continue if the legislation on national security is enacted. Civil society has to be careful with their public expressions. Journalists and civil society can be convicted for prompting a foreigner to attack China. Internet users can access internet sites that the mainland does not enjoy. The Hong Kong government enacts restrictions to enhance security. Freedom of expression to enhance economic interest is allowed if it does not endanger the security of Hong Kong. Freedom of expression can have an impact on other rights. Freedom of expression if misinterpreted can infringe the privacy of another person or expose matters of security concern. Freedom of expression observes responsibility and accountability. Civil society should not use it to abuse power or exercise control over others.

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Freedom of expression is challenged by the system of governance in Hong Kong. The one country rule is more powerful than the two systems approach. Beijing has been seen to make policies for Hong Kong. Hong Kong government adheres to the orders from Beijing although it still enjoys the freedom of expression.

The civil society is entitled to government information in a democratic government. The civil society in Hong Kong has access to government documents. The documents are used in scrutiny of government’s performance.

The chief executive and other officials of the Hong Kong Special Region are appointed by the People’s Republic of China government. The head of People’s Republic of China exercises power over the chief executive of the Special Administrative region. Consequently, the chief executive is influenced by the authority and supports freedom for expression with difficulty. The freedom may be viewed as the interest for the executive to exercise control and protect their interest.

Internet connection in Hong Kong is not restricted. Hong Kong, under the one country- two regions, does enjoys the freedom of expression. The internet has been used by human rights advocates to share their ideas and to give information on human rights. The civil society is therefore, given an opportunity to be part of the human rights organizations.

Internet is an invention that has allowed the exchange of massive information and contributed to further developments. Economic, political, religious and social views are shared in the social media in the internet. The government has funded the internet censorship and is keen to be at par with the growth of technology. The internet providers in Hong Kong do not have to observe the government’s directive to avoid being convicted. People are convicted if they commit acts of treason and being involved in stealing the government’s secrets. Spying is also prohibited. If a public servant or an internet user exposes government information that is protected they are considered to have committed criminal acts.

The Chine People Republic introduced a great firewall that blocked certain sites that the civil society was not allowed to access. The justification for such actions was that, China needed to protect its economic interest and to prevent external influence. Civil society is unable to become members of the online international community since they cannot access certain websites.

With the development in technology, China has made innovations that aid in surveillance and control. The users often claim that certain web pages open but some functions have access problems. in Hong Kong the civil society enjoy access to the restricted sites. Moreover, the search engines as well as emails that contain unwanted links are characterized by detachment. Some foreign websites are denied access when the internet user wants information on particular topics.

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People have been convicted for criticizing the government on human rights issues to do with freedom of expression. Civilians and journalists have publicly pointed at the violation of human rights. Others have committed treason, incited and committed acts of violence, disclosed protected government information and caused public disorders with insecurity have found themselves convicted. Those arrested by the police are tortured and may end up losing their lives because of wounds and ill treatment.

When freedom of expression is denied, the affected people are also likely to lack freedom of speech, assembly, and association among other related rights. The Hong Kong journalists cover protests and government events. They are expected to give positive information about the government.

Hopes lie in the existence of a new government that will consider freedom of expression to be of significance and support it with a positive view. The government will therefore enact laws that support freedom of information. The legislation on national security that hinders freedom of expression will be resisted. The legislation has been developed with an aim of restricting journalist and human rights activists from revealing the weaknesses of the government.

Hong Kong government can remain autonomous if the executive strongly supports the freedom of expression. The government documents or information should remain accessible to the civil society for accountability purposes. Policies that allow the media and civil society to access information can be formulated and enacted by the executive. The basic law is sufficient to support the legislation on security and also accommodate the freedom of expression. The freedom of expression carries responsibility.

It is necessary to review the information before expressing it. Depending on the nature of information, the content might have a negative impact. The impacts may be on another person, the entire civil society or on the person expressing it. Freedom of expression should not be intended to harm another person or self. Therefore, restrictions on freedom of expression are necessary to avoid violating other human rights.

Article 5 of the Basic law stipulates that Hong Kong should remain a capitalist society for 50 years. The region is different from the main land and will be autonomous. Socialist ideas are not to be practiced in Hong Kong; hence the region is in order to practice democracy. In line with the Basic Law, the civil society is entitled to their rights that other democracies enjoy. Consequently, the civil society has a right to practice capitalism within Hong Kong without the interference by the People’s Republic of China.

Article 10 of the Basic law stipulates that, Hong Kong displays the national flag. The regional flag can be raised as well. The national flag is a symbol of the entire nation. The regional flag of Hong Kong being raised may have significance to the people under Hong Kong Government. Raising the flag is a fundamental right of expression. Diverse translations of the significance of the Hong Kong regional flag indicate that the flag and its emblem may refer to one country, two system rules. Both the national flag and the regional flag are to be protected.

Hong Kong is mandated to protect the rights and freedoms of its people. The justice system and other organs of the government should insist on remaining independent. The People’s Republic of China violates the rights of the civil society. They enact laws in China that undermine the realization of the goals. The civil society of Hong Kong has enjoyed freedom of expression with the government’s influence on those making anti-socialist ideas.

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In Hong Kong, the government declares that it upholds human rights. There is no Article of the basic Law that denounces the existence of freedom of expression. The actions of the government make the civil society refrain from expressing their ideas for fear of the consequences.

Restrictions on freedom of expression may be necessary for civil society protection on morals. A group of young people in the society need to be protected morally. Information that will have impact on young people because they are immature, dependent and have young mental capabilities can be restricted. The restrictions will protect the physical and mental health of the individuals. The young person freedom for mental disturbance is protected.

Freedom of expression has a foundation in democracy. The government implements restrictions with an aim of protecting the public. Individuals tend to exaggerate some ideas and information when expressing them. The exaggeration may affect other people’s reputations. Freedom of expression can be balanced with others’ interests. Civil society can be allowed to access information that is necessary and good for the public.

Amnesty International UK suggests that the Chinese government should honor the Basic law and pardon civilians and journalists who have been arrested for violating the freedom of expression. Hong Kong is sovereign and should be allowed to exercise the freedom of expression as the Basic law purports. Since it is sovereign, it is also appropriate for civil society to enjoy its freedom of expression by raising the regional flag. The People’s Republic of China should protect its people and not allow excessive punishment by the police. The People’s Republic of China can be open and share publicly what information is restricted. The agreements that the People’s Republic of China engages in can be publicized to enlighten internet users on the implications. The judicial system fosters the actualization of human rights. They can stand firm to oppose any instructions that breach international human rights, especially the freedom of expression. Policies may be necessary to support human rights and the justice system in Hong Kong. The extent to which freedom of expression is allowed can also be discussed. This will ensure that the freedom of expression is not used to exercise power on others or to violate others’ rights. They can set guidelines concerning human rights and use of the internet. Civil society can be allowed to hold demonstrations without being arrested or harassed by the police.

Conclusion

Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, practices the Basic Law. The Basic Law stipulates that it is autonomous. People’s Republic of China supports socialism while Hong Kong is capitalistic. The freedom of expression, as a fundamental freedom, is realized in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, being a democracy, is entitled to freedom of expression since civil society should participate and express their opinion. Civil society is convicted for information that amounts to treason and threatens the security of the state. The government has placed a great firewall that restricts access to websites only in China and not in Hong Kong. The internet in China is under constant surveillance and those found violating the law are convicted. The government enacts the restriction to secure the economic interest and for security purposes. Freedom of expression can be controlled with an aim of upholding morals and controlling the inappropriate exercise of power. Freedom of expression, when exercised, should not violate others such as the rights to privacy. Civil society can be allowed to exercise the freedom of expression by holding a peaceful demonstrations without police harassment and openly expressing their views in public. The civilians and journalists convicted should be released. The restricted information should be shared with the public and policies that support human rights be adopted in Hong Kong. The Justice system in Hong Kong should be firm and support the freedom of expression. The People’s Republic of China should recognize human rights.

References

Amnesty International UK, Undermining Freedom of expression in China, 2006. Web.

Decree of the President of the People’s Republic of China, The Basic Law of the Hong

Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, 1997. Web.

Hong Kong Journalist Association, Hong Kong Freedom of expression under threat, 2011. Web.

Human Rights Backgrounder, Freedom of Expression and the Internet in China, 2002. Web.

Kellogg, T. E, The Hong Kong Lawyer Controversy and Self Censorship in Hong Kong, 2008. Web.

Man, T, HKSAR v Ng Kung Siu & Anor, 2000. Web.

Manson, P, Freedom of Expression, 2011. Web.

SAHRDC, China: Freedom of expression, Human rights features, 6, 6. 2003. Web.

Shemwell, C, Self-Censorship and the Press in Hong Kong, 2002. Web.

The law reform commission of Hong Kong, The Regulation of Media Intrusion, 1999. Web.

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