12 May 2019, Vol.7(1), pp.190-211
Abstract: The rise of the regulatory state, compounded by political polarization, in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China has opened up opportunities for its common law courts to substantively review the lawfulness of an array of governmental actions. Through the development of doctrines on reasonableness review and substantive legitimate expectation, the Hong Kong judiciary has sought to assert its relevance by nudging, incentivizing, and, at times, compelling the local government to deliberate and reason carefully before the latter implements decisions that restrict the citizenry’s rights and interests. Nevertheless, the courts have consistently under-enforced these doctrines in actual cases, affirming the lawfulness of administrative acts in the vast majority of substantive review cases that come before them. The hallmark of Hong Kong’s autochthonous administrative law, a legal transplant sourced from England, but indigenized and grown in Chinese soil, is thus characterized by liberal rhetoric paired with limited judicial intervention in practice.