Hong Kong`s autonomy was guaranteed by the “one country, two systems” agreement enshrined in the joint Sino-British declaration signed by then-Chinese Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. First, the declaration itself does not have a mechanism approved by both parties to ensure compliance. Although the agreement was registered with the United Nations, it did not contain any UN monitoring mechanisms, unlike the Finnish islands. Therefore, only the signatories of the declaration have the right to address any violations of the conditions. This is what happened in 1992, when Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten proposed political reforms without prior consultation with China, which responded by accusing Britain of violating the declaration. In theory, China could have filed a formal complaint against Britain, but it renounced it, perhaps in the hope of a smooth transfer process. Similarly, after the recent events, Britain criticized China for violating the agreement, but this would have no concrete impact if the case were not formally brought before an international tribunal, according to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), for infringement. Thirty-five years ago today, on December 19, 1984, the governments of the United Kingdom and China reached an agreement on the Hong Kong issue. The Sino-British Joint Declaration, as it is known, was registered with the United Nations on 12 June 1985 as a legally binding international treaty that is still in force today.
During the 2014 Umbrella Revolution, a campaign against perceived violations of mainland China in HKSAR, Chinese officials concluded for the first time that China considered the joint declaration “invalid,” according to a British MP.  This conclusion was found to be “manifestly erroneous” by a senior Hong Kong lawyer and rejected by the British Foreign Minister, who stated that the document was a legally binding agreement that had to be respected.   Rita Fan, then Hong Kong`s only representative on the Standing Committee of the National People`s Congress in Beijing, stated that responsibility for the UK`s oversight had expired and that the joint declaration did not provide for universal suffrage.  This agreement between the United Kingdom and China made it clear that Hong Kong`s high level of autonomy, rights and freedoms would remain unchanged for 50 years. China`s commitments, including freedom of expression, the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, are essential to Hong Kong`s prosperity and way of life. The Joint Declaration of the Salts and the British consists of eight paragraphs, three annexes on basic policy for Hong Kong, the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group and the Land Leases, as well as the two memorandums of both parties. Each party has the same status and “the whole forms a formal international agreement, legally binding in all its elements. Such an international agreement is the highest form of engagement between two sovereign states.  As part of these declarations, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is under the control of the central government of the People`s Republic of China and enjoys a high degree of autonomy, with the exception of foreign affairs and defence.