China Research Seminar public talk

February 27, 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Mānoa Campus, Moore Hall 109

Announcing a Chinese Studies public talk

“Autonomy as a Form of Internal Self-Determination: Why the United Nations Should be Monitoring Implementation of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ in Hong Kong and Macau”

by Carole Petersen, J.D., Professor, William S Richardson School of Law, and Graduate Chair, Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, UH Manoa

Wednesday, February 27, 2019, 12:00 pm, Moore Hall 109, 1890 East-West Rd, UHM

In 1972, Hong Kong and Macau were removed from the United Nations’ list of non-self-governing territories. This decision, made without public consultation, set the stage for the application of the “One Country, Two Systems” (OCTS) model of autonomy to Hong Kong (in 1997) and Macau (in 1999). When OCTS was first explained to the people of Hong Kong, both the Chinese and British governments promised that Hong Kong would enjoy an extraordinarily high degree of autonomy, including a separate legal system, a separate currency, and the enforcement of human rights treaties that do not apply in Mainland China. Now, however, many commentators would agree that OCTS is in a state of crisis in Hong Kong. Both Beijing and certain pro-democracy advocates have adopted unduly rigid positions, making it increasingly difficult for moderates to bridge the divide. Beijing has also overreacted to the small independence movement and intervened in ways that threaten civil liberties, rule of law and clean government. While the transition has been smoother in Macau, there are also signs that Macau’s autonomy is eroding. Professor Petersen therefore proposes a new approach to preserve autonomy, one that relies less on street protests and more on gaining international recognition of a right to practice internal self-determination, particularly when the decolonization process was not completed in accordance with the normal rules of international law. She also argues that the UN needs to take a more active role in monitoring the implementation of OCTS in Hong Kong and Macau. Internal self-determination can provide a peaceful mechanism for resolving territorial disputes. However, if OCTS ultimately fails to provide meaningful autonomy, then separatist movements will be less likely to accept internal self-determination as an alternative to independence.

Carole Petersen taught in Hong Kong from 1989 to 2006, specializing in constitutional law, human rights, and anti-discrimination law. She is a former Director of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law and currently serves as a member of its international advisory board. She holds a BA from the University of Chicago, a JD from Harvard Law School, and a Postgraduate Diploma in the Law of the People’s Republic of China from the University of Hong Kong.

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Ticket Information
Free admission

Event Sponsor
Center for Chinese Studies, Mānoa Campus

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(808) 956-8891, c

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