Didi Kirsten Tatlow
International New York Times
16 June 2016
To buy a tiny but coveted apartment in the vertiginous towers of South Horizons, a middle-class housing development overlooking the South China Sea in the world’s most expensive real estate market, would cost a family about a million United States dollars.
These modest homes on Ap Lei Chau, Cantonese for Duck Tongue Island, are a reason that a seemingly far-off date — July 1, 2047 — is in fact pressingly close in Hong Kong. Under the Sino-British Joint Declaration governing the British colony’s return to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, China agreed that Hong Kong would retain a high degree of autonomy, and its capitalist financial and legal system, for 50 years.
“The current social and economic systems in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, and so will the lifestyle,” the Joint Declaration said.
A simple calculation shows the problem: After July 1, 2017, a 30-year home mortgage cannot be paid off before July 1, 2047, when the declaration runs out and China’s promises expire along with it.
“History repeats itself,” said Johannes Chan, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong. “In the 1980s, the banks were a prime driver for a solution.”
That demand for financial certainty led to the Joint Declaration and the legal framework, known as the Basic Law, that Britain and China agreed to for post-handover Hong Kong, which described the city’s rights for 50 years after 1997.
The Joint Declaration was the basis for the recovery of China’s sovereignty, and “it clearly stated that the Chinese policy was to let things go on for 50 years,” Mr. Chan said. “There is no promise for beyond 50 years. Thereafter it will relapse, because sovereignty has already been resumed.”... Click here to read the full article.