The Basics of 'Basic Law' and Other Lingo

Here is a glossary of common terms in Hong Kong's unique politics:

Special Administrative Region

What Hong Kong becomes after July 1, 1997, under the Joint Declaration negotiated between Britain and China in 1984. Under it, Hong Kong is to preserve its capitalist system and enjoy a large degree of autonomy for 50 years.

Basic Law

The document that serves as the constitution for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region after July 1, 1997.

Legislative Council

The territory's 60-member lawmaking body. Under Gov. Christopher Patten's reforms, it will have 29 directly elected and 31 indirectly elected members after the September election. Beijing considers this formula unconstitutional and has promised to reconstitute the body with no more than 20 directly elected members initially, the rest appointed or indirectly elected.

Court of Final Appeal

The territory's supreme court, replacing the British Privy Council. As agreed by Britain and China, it provides for a panel of five judges, four of whom must be Hong Kong residents. A fifth can be chosen by the chief justice from some other common-law jurisdiction outside of Hong Kong. It was to have been constituted in 1993. The Legislative Council wants to give the chief justice more flexibility in appointing outside judges. Beijing says it will dismantle any body that violates the agreed forumla.

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