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Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia.

At first glance, these two political systems seem vastly different from
each other- and its not difficult to see why. Hong Kong is typically seen as a largely democratic,
progressive country, while Saudi Arabia is seen as a country whom rules completely under a
monarchy. While these generalizations may have some amount of truth in it, we often simplify
political systems as a way of categorizing things together. In the following presentation, I aim to go
beyond that and take a closer look at both Hong Kong and Saudi Arabias political system, and
analyzing the characteristics that make these two places both similar and drastically different from
each other.
Before we begin, its important to take a quick overview of the political structure of the place itself.
Lets start with Hong Kong. Hong Kong is technically under a limited democracy, meaning that
people have limited rights in choosing the people who govern the government- specifically, upon
reaching 18 years of age, people can participate in elections for half of the members of the
legislative council (also known as LegCo), and a majority of seats in 18 district councils.
Representatives choose the other half of the legislature and the chief executive, which are chosen
from a variety of places which intended to represent the rest of the Hong Kong community.
The current government system has three branches of government- executive, run by C.Y. Leung
and Executive council members, meaning they have responsibility to put laws into action and to
execute them, the legislative branch, run by LegCo (with 70 members), responsible for writing the
laws, and the judicial branch, which comprises of both English and Chinese laws and works
separately from the rest of the government system.
With a quick understanding of Hong Kongs government, lets now turn to Saudi Arabia. Saudi
Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the !l Sa"#d, a family whom has close ties and support for the
Wahhb$ religious establishment, which is a fairly strict conservative form of Islam, and the current
king of the country is King Abdullah. The king serves as he prime minister, chief of state, head of
government and commander in chief of the military, and is the absolute monarch of the country,
being able to overrule any other decisions made by the government As the monarchy is hereditary,
there are no political parties, and elections are not taken.
There are three branches of government, similar to the Hong Kong structure, however the members
within these branches are selected by the king himself and many of them are family members of the
king as well. The executive branch is made out of King Adbullah, as well as the Council of
Ministers, whom the King appoints, many of which are family members. The Legislative branch is
made up of a consultative council, which consists of 150 members, as of now chosen by the king.
However, it is the judicial branch that is the most unique, as the country is governed according to
Islamic law (Shariah). This has caused Saudi Arabia to be largely different to many countries, and
has shaped almost all of the political ideologies that Saudi Arabia possesses in the present, which
will be discussed later on in the presentation.
Lets first take a look at the economy of each country in comparison to each other. Hong Kong is
known as the freest economy in the world, and is highly dependent on independent trade as well as
finance. Despite this, they have a extremely strong banking system, close to no debt and rigorous
anti-corruption measures, which enable it to transition quickly depending on the economy. From
this, you can see that the market is largely based upon trade and finance with exports and imports
throughout the world, rather than through raw materials themselves. This is due to the fact that
Hong Kong is an extremely small city in comparison to Saudi Arabia with a high population
density, and therefore has adapted to this area of trade in order to suit them best.
Saudi Arabias economy is also fairly prosperous, however their main source of money stems from
oil, and the government has a strong control over the economy. According to the Organization of the
Petroleum Exporting Countries, Saudi Arabia possesses 18% of the worlds proven petroleum
reserves, and is a large exporter of petroleum, therefore having a large influence on the oil economy.
Based on this, you can see that both countries have fairly strong economies, but they are strong in
different ways- one based on natural resources, and the other based on trade done by members of
the society.
Moving on to the societal aspects, lets now analyze the religious freedom that both places have.
Hong Kong prides itself in diversity in religion, and freedom to the religion they prefer is one of the
fundamental rights protected by the Basic Law. As a result of that, there are a large variety of
religious groups in Hong Kong- some native to the area, some foreign. This diversity was probably
influenced at some level by the British occupation of the country, which introduced many
immigrants from external countries. In comparison, Saudi Arabias law is based upon Islam, which
is the official religion of the country. In comparison to Hong Kong, the government does not protect
the freedom of religion, and those who live in Saudi Arabia must conform to many of the rules
stated- even converting to Islam if they wish to acquire Saudi nationality. Those that do follow other
religions are not allowed to practice their religions while in the country. As a theocracy, this means
that many rights are stripped away from people in Saudi Arabia who practice other religions,
however this also means that those who are Islam are largely represented within society here-
making them able to follow their religion to a full extent with all members of society legally
required to take into account their religion.
With religious freedom not being an option in Saudi Arabia, this also brings about many issues on
the rights of other people, especially those who identify within the LGBTA community. While
discrimination is still somewhat prevalent in Hong Kong society, it is extremely mild in comparison
to some of the discrimination that exists within Saudi Arabian communities. While Hong Kong does
not acknowledge homosexual marriage as of yet, people are still allowed to protest in favor of it and
are working towards non-traditional marriage becoming accepted into society. Saudi Arabia still
continues to frequently execute those thought to be homosexual, and the Arab news has once
explicitly stated that gay rights are not recognized in the middle east countries and the publication
of any material promoting them is banned. Therefore, while Hong Kong is somewhat more
conservative than other countries in terms of acceptance of LGBTA rights and womens rights,
Saudi Arabia is much less progressive in this sense, which has been largely affected by religion.
Overall, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong are two vastly different types of political systems and have
extremely different ideologies, but still possess some elements that are the same as each other. In
terms of the social-economic scale, both countries could be considered somewhat right wing,
though they are on very different ends of that particular scale- Hong Kong being only slightly right
wing due to their economy, and Saudi Arabia being extremely right wing due to their values and
ideologies in which they run their countries. On the social scale, they have even larger differences,
with Hong Kong edging towards the libertarian (that is, the lower) side of the spectrum with our
right to speech and ability to have freedom in religion and gender, while Saudi Arabia possesses
many authoritarian qualities, especially in terms of religion and following certain societal norms.
However, despite this, it is important to try and view both objectively and empathetically. Only
through the development of our understanding of the various different political systems that exist
throughout our world can we build the ability to critically analyze the positive and negative aspects
of various political systems, and work towards progressing and improving our political systems for
a less corrupt, more stable future.