Constitutionalism in the Shadow of the Common Law

The Dysfunctional Interpretive Politics of Article 8 of the Hong Kong Basic Law
  • Michael W. Dowdle


Article 8 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR commands that “the laws previously in force in Hong Kong, that is, the common law, rules of equity, ordinances, subordinate legislation and customary law shall be maintained.” This introduces a unique element into Hong Kong’s constitutional interpretation—its “interpretative politics”: Hong Kong may be the only jurisdiction in the modern world to elevate a particular legal system to the status of a constitutional right.


Constitutional Democracy Legislative Council Constitutional System Constitutional Issue Fait Accompli 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Quentin Skinner, “The State,” in Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, ed. Terence Ball, James Farr, and Russell L. Hanson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 90–131.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    John Adolphus, ed., A correct, full, and impartial report, of the trial of Her Majesty Caroline, Queen Consort of Great Britain, before the House of Peers, on the bill of pains and penalties: with authentic particulars, embracing every circumstance connected with, and illustrative of, the subject of this momentous event interspersed with original letters, and other curious and interesting documents, not generally known, and never before published, including, at large, Her Majesty’s defence (Buffalo, NY: Hein, 2001), 221.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See also Dror Wahrman, “Public Opinion, Violence, and the Limits of Constitutional Politics,” in Re-Reading the Constitution, ed. James Vernon (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 83–122.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Adam Tomkins, “The Republican Monarchy Revisited,” Constitutional Comment 19 (2002): 737.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    See A. V. Dicey, Lectures on the Relation between Law and Public Opinion in England during the Nineteenth Century (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1981);Google Scholar
  6. Dicey, “Democracy in Switzerland—II,” The Nation 41 (1886): 494–96.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See David Schneiderman, “A. V. Dicey, Lord Watson, and the Law of the Canadian Constitution in the Late Nineteenth Century,” Law and History Review 16 (1998): 495–526;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. H. A. Tulloch, “Changing British Attitudes towards the United States in the 1880s,” The Historical Journal 20 (1977): 825–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 8.
    See William Wade and Christopher Forsyth, Administrative Law, 9th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 18–19.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    See also Harold J. Laski, “On the Study of Politics,” in The Study of Politics: A Collection of Inaugural Lectures, ed. Preston King (London: Frank Cass, 1977), 1, 13.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    See E. P. Thompson, Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act (London: Allen Lane, 1975).Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    See Richard H. Helmholtz, “Origins of the Privilege against Self-Incrimination: The Role of the European Ius Commune,” New York University Law Review 65 (1990): 962;Google Scholar
  13. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London: Gollancz, 1963) (on the French influence on early industrial English constitutionalism); Council of Civil Service Unions v. Minister for the Civil Service [1985] AC 374, 410, HL (opinion of Lord Diplock) (importing French administrative law doctrine of proportionality into English common law).Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Yash Ghai, Hong Kong’s New Constitutional Order: The Resumption of Chinese Sovereignty and the Basic Law (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1997);Google Scholar
  15. Peter Wesley-Smith, Constitutional and Administrative Law in Hong Kong, 2nd ed. (Hong Kong: Longman Asia, 1994).Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    See Larry Diamond and Leonardo Morlino, eds., Assessing the Quality of Democracy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005); Fareed Zakaria, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 1997.Google Scholar
  17. 20.
    See, generally, Will Kymlicka and Alan Patten, eds., Language Rights and Political Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).Google Scholar
  18. 21.
    See James A. Epstein, Radical Expression: Political Language, Ritual, and Symbol in England, 1790–1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994);Google Scholar
  19. Larry D. Kramer, The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review (Oxford: New York, Oxford University Press, 2004).Google Scholar
  20. 22.
    See Jon Elster, ed., The Roundtable Talks and the Breakdown of Communism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  21. 23.
    See generally Kramer, The People Themselves. See also Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1992).Google Scholar
  22. 24.
    A. W. Bradley and K. D. Ewing, Constitutional and Administrative Law, 12th ed. (London: Longman, 1997).Google Scholar
  23. 25.
    See Ghai, Hong Kong’s New Constitutional Order. Compare with Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).Google Scholar
  24. 26.
    See Albert Venn Dicey, Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, 8th ed. (London: Macmillan, 1915).Google Scholar
  25. 27.
    William N. Eskridge, Jr., “Reneging on History? Playing the Court/Congress/President Civil Rights Game,” California Law Review 79 (1991): 613, 627–29. See also General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (1976); The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Pub. L. No. 95–555, 92 Stat. 2076 (1979) (codified as 42 U.S.C. § 2000e[k]).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 29.
    For more on the use of curative legislation by the U.S. Congress, see William N. Eskridge, Jr., “Overriding Supreme Court Statutory Interpretation Decisions,” Yale Law Journal 101 (1991): 331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 31.
    See Bruce A. Ackerman, We the People (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  28. 34.
    See Gerald N. Rosenberg, The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring about Social Change? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Hualing Fu, Lison Harris, and Simon N. M. Young, eds. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael W. Dowdle

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations