On 1 July 1997, sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred to the People's Republic of China (PRC), ending over one and a half centuries of British rule.
Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the PRC with a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign affairs and defence, which are responsibilities of the PRC government.
According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration (1984) and the Basic Law, Hong Kong will retain its political, economic, and judicial systems and unique way of life and continue to participate in international agreements and organisations as a dependent territory for at least 50 years after retrocession.
For instance, the International Olympic Committee recognises Hong Kong as a participating dependency under the name, "Hong Kong, China", separate from the delegation from the People's Republic of China.
In accordance with Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong has Special Administrative Region status, which provides constitutional guarantees for implementing the policy of "one country, two systems".
The government is economically liberal, but currently lacks universal suffrage except for District Council elections and Legislative council seats for geographical constituencies.
The head of government (the Chief Executive of Hong Kong) is elected indirectly through an electoral college, the majority of whose members are appointed. The Basic Law, Hong Kong's constitutional document, was approved in March 1990 by National People's Congress of the PRC.
The Chief Executive is the head of the special administrative region, and is also the highest-ranking official in the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and is the head of the executive branch.
The Chief Executive is elected by an 1200-member Election Committee drawn mostly from the voters in the functional constituencies but also from religious organisations and municipal and central government bodies. The Executive Council is entirely appointed by the Chief Executive.
In accordance with Article 26 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, permanent residents of Hong Kong are eligible to vote in direct elections for the 30 seats representing geographical constituencies in the 60-seat, unicameral Legislative Council (LegCo).
The franchise for the other 30 seats is limited to about 180,000 voters in functional constituencies (composed of business and professional sectors).
The Judiciary consists of a series of courts, of which the court of final adjudication is the Court of Final Appeal.