Hong Kong is governed under the policy of One Country, Two Systems established in accordance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration after the handover of the colony to China in 1997. As a special Administrative Region of mainland China, Hong Kong continues to enjoy a good deal of autonomy in all areas except defence and foreign affairs. The Joint Declaration guarantees the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong citizens for 50 years after 1997 and states that the region will maintain its capitalist economic system as well.

Hong Kong is governed under the tenets of Basic Law which outlines the executive, judicial, and legislative authorities for the region however final authority for interpretation of the Basic Law rests with the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. Since the handover, issues relating to the implementation and interpretation of Basic Law as well as Universal Suffrage have been hotly-debated political topics. In some cases, legislation that was thought to infringe on the rights of the citizenry has met with fierce resistance and did not manage to succeed in being passed into law.

Hong Kong’s completely independent legal system continues to follow the English Common law tradition established under British rule in contrast to the civil law system of mainland China. Precedents rendered from other common law jurisdictions are referred to by Hong Kong’s courts in making their decisions and judges from other common law jurisdictions are allowed to sit on the Court of Final Appeal on a non permanent basis.

Police Force

As of 2007, Hong Kong had almost 28,000 members with an additional 4,800 civilian employees. Formerly known as the Royal Hong Kong Police Force until the handover in 1997, the Hong Kong Police Force operates under Hong Kong Basic Law. It also abides by the British constabulary tradition of preserving life and property, detecting and preventing crime as well as keeping the peace.

INTERPOL and the FBI rate the Hong Kong Police Force as one of the most professional and well trained police forces in the world. This reputation is reflected in the 90% confidence rate that the public holds in the force.

Though 99% Chinese, the force has retained a cosmopolitan element. 185 Europeans serve on the Hong Kong Police Force in positions ranging from Inspector to Assistant Commissioner and there are a handful Indian, Pakistani, Thai, Singaporean and Malay ethnicities.


By almost any standard Hong Kong has a low crime rate. As with any big congested city however, one should exercise caution when in crowded areas as pickpockets will take advantage of those who appear unaware of their surroundings. Though rare, violent crime does exist. A number of so called acid attacks occurred in 2008 that involved individuals throwing corrosive liquid from multi-storey buildings onto the crowd below. There were a number of injuries from the attacks which, according to the Hong Kong Police, were indiscriminate in nature.

Overall, you can expect your time in Hong Kong to be generally very safe. When compared to major American or European cities, Hong Kong fares very favourably.

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Moving Overseas as an Expat