The fight for Hongkong continues subtly

When Britain prepared to transfer the sovereignty of Hong Kong, London signed the Treaty with Peking to pave the way for a ‘One Country Two Systems’ (1C2S) Chinese rule over Hong Kong. Although the people of Hong Kong were not consulted, the plan seem logical at the time – it solved one of Britain’s moral liability and such power sharing / devolution is actively implemented within Britain and other decolonised territories. The governance model, was of course, not a new political model but a well-oiled framework used frequently by 1982.  When revealed to HongKongers that the question of Hong Kong will be resolved on 1st July 1997 under 1C2S, veteran democracy politician Martin Lee said “This is a moment when all Chinese people should feel proud”. He went on to mention that it could be a progressive way for Mainland China to catch up with the Rule of Law and way of life that Hong Kong had demonstrated for the Chinese people.

Such were the goodwill and courage from HongKongers. There were no plans to scuttle the will from Peking or London; there was no mutiny planned to bring instantaneous seismic changes to how Mainland China should be governed. But certainly HongKongers actively find ingenious ways to be represented even when seldom conferred, in order to treasure their identity. They challenged the crisis where the territory’s dollar crashed, and stabilised by pegging HK Dollars to the US Dollars through reserves achieved from the economic success of HongKongers. Also, the pro-democracy camp devoted time into social welfare, work rights and endeavour as much electoral reforms as possible drawn up since the times of Governor Mark Young. Although diplomats will only voice their concerns of a Chinese controlled 1C2S, HongKongers actively engage to give it the best chance and to make do with a future penned in other cities. The people of Hong Kong may never have had full democracy in their land, but certainly can express themselves in a democratic way.

Therefore, it could never be true that the people of Hong Kong destabilise or bring foul to their hometown. When 2 million clashed with the government on the streets in 2019, it was an act of perseverance of our efforts. There was a moment when there could have been a progressive way forwards, or at the very least, where both parts of China can excel in each of their own ways.

Certainly the Chinese culture could have allowed for representative governance. The idea of passionate governance, kind-hearted promises governance were penned as early as 372BC. Mencius wrote if a leader backtracks on benevolent governance, the same famine bestowed upon the populace will only be returned upon the leader 『戒之戒之!出乎爾者,反乎爾者也。』. Indeed, it is the political entity in Peking who could not live up to Chinese values.

The crackdown is another crisis faced but so are new ways developing.  There are the frontline protesters seeking asylum in the UK as they liaison to lobby international support to free political prisoners. While it may sound controversial, some seek to aid in the defence of foreign territorial entities. Meanwhile, families start a new life in UK through the British National (Overseas) scheme. Their new generations will certainly find new political discourse in the international order. As for us, the Liberal Democrats can enhance the BN(O) scheme through parliamentary pressure in both Houses; after all, it was Paddy Ashdown who reminded the Houses how deeply affiliated and of similar values are the British and the people of Hong Kong.  The Liberal Democrats Friends of Hong Kong will also seek to protect our British values towards international treaties and asylum obligations.

Today, the banners in Hong Kong reads a new era of stability, prosperity and opportunities. However, 25 years into its sovereignty over Hong Kong, the Peking functionaries had to be brought into the city through a hole in the ground rather than the usual fanfare of two presidential planes. And just before you thought it was green transportation, the massive rail terminus does not run a single train for the public. Everyone would have wished Peking had been as progressive as the people of Hong Kong – who too celebrated 25 years ago. That would not have torn 1C2S apart. Truly allowing Hong Kong people, elected through democracy, to govern Hong Kong could be the only reliable way forwards. The fight continues.

* Nicholas Chan is a Liberal Democrats member training in Criminal Law and working with Liberal Democrats Friends of Hong Kong. Questions on LD FdsHK can be directed to Founder – Larry Ngan: twitter @LarryNgan1.

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  • ………….. Although the people of Hong Kong were not consulted, the plan seem logical at the time – it solved one of Britain’s moral liability and such power sharing / devolution is actively implemented within Britain and other decolonised territories………..

    I listened with wry amusement to a government spokesperson explaining how, ‘within a mere 25 years’ China had broken their international agreement on Hong Kong.. I thought ‘a mere 25 years’ what took them so long;? The UK government can break international agreements within 3 years without any sense of irony..

  • Brad Barrows 1st Jul '22 - 4:44pm

    Good point. And it is worth adding that while what the Chinese government did would have not broken the agreement if they had they waited until 2047 to do what they did, what the UK government proposes in terms of unilaterally amending an international agreement will always be wrong.

  • On topic: thank you for your post, Nicholas. I have friends in Hong Kong, with young children, and really worry for all of them.

  • And I see this morning that China is echoing Brad and expats’ comments. Too much to hope the UK government learns from this that they’ve trashed our reputation AND given the rest of world the green light to break agreements with us.

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