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Title: Constitutionalism under China : strategic interpretation of the Hong Kong basic law in comparative perspective
Author: Ip, Eric Chi Yeung
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 9333
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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The scholarly consensus on the political foundations of independent constitutional review – that it invariably stems from electoral and inter-branch competition – has been weakened by recent empirical discoveries which demonstrated that constitutional courts in a number of authoritarian states are actually more activist than previously assumed. This dissertation examines this phenomenon using the case of Hong Kong, an authoritarian polity first under the sovereignty of Britain and then of China. It is widely believed that the competence of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal – a cosmopolitan common law final appellate court – to strike down legislative and executive acts, and its ability to induce the regime’s compliance with its rulings, is intrinsic to the Basic Law, just as it is in liberal democracies. Nevertheless, two interrelated anomalous phenomena – the Court’s repeated issuance of activist rulings with near-complete impunity, and the continuing forbearance of China’s foremost constitutional authority, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), faced with the Court’s aggressive assertions – necessitates careful explanation. This dissertation proposes an explanatory Constitutional Investment Theory, which highlights the similarities between “investment” in constitutional review and investment in financial assets, to explain the activation, consolidation, and ascendancy of independent constitutional review in authoritarian settings. It shows how strong incentives to signal its ideological commitment to the “One Country, Two Systems” scheme, both internationally and domestically, first drove the NPCSC to acquiesce in the Court’s self-aggrandisement; how internal divisions within and external opposition to the Hong Kong regime have rendered retaliation a costly option; and how the Court’s strategic resolution of the Basic Law’s ambiguities has encouraged continuous political investment in its jurisdiction and autonomy. Altogether, these have contributed to the formation of a dynamic equilibrium of constitution control, under which the Court and the NPCSC dynamically developed their own jurisprudence within their respective bailiwicks.
Supervisor: Galligan, Denis J. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Law ; Socio-legal studies ; Hong Kong ; China ; Constitutional Law ; Judicial Review