Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
A major milestone of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s political career was the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration alongside Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang in December of 1984. The treaty released Hong Kong from its centuries-old standing as a colony of the United Kingdom, and whilst the region was handed over to China, it was granted unique status with special protections. In recent years, these safeguards have been abused by the People’s Republic of China repeatedly, rendering the 1984 treaty worthless, and exposing the people of Hong Kong to a brutal Communist regime.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration guarantees Hong Kong’s status as Special Administrative Region for fifty years starting from its implementation on 1 July 1997. The treaty outlines the exclusive rights of the Hong Kong people, including those ‘of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief‘, and emphasises that they will be guaranteed in law by the region’s administration. It is also stressed that Hong Kong will be ‘vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication‘.
Hong Kong is one of the few places in China where people can commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which Beijing authorities opened fire on unarmed protesters.
In the past decade, however, as Premier Xi Jinping seeks to consolidate his power, China has repeatedly infringed upon and broken the terms of the 1984 treaty. It has influenced legal rulings such as the ousting of the pro-democracy opposition lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, it has kidnapped political booksellers like Lam Wing-kee, who has since left Hong Kong, and it has started banning journalists like the Financial Times‘ Victor Mallet from entering the city.
For the last ten weeks, millions of Hong Kong citizens have been taking to the streets to protest against Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s proposed Extradition Bill which would see fugitives sent to Taiwan, Macau, and even mainland China. They have done so under the threat of the intervention of the military might of the China’s People’s Liberation Army, who on 31 July were seen conducting anti-riot drills in Hong Kong. The region is even under threat from Hollywood, with Chinese-born naturalised US citizen and Mulan actress Liu Yifei expressing support for the Hong Kong police, who have deployed brute force against protesters, and Hong Kong-born star Jackie Chan siding with the mainland Republic over the semi-autonomous city.
It is imperative that Hong Kong is defended by the UK, and that we remind China of its promises as legally set out by the Joint Declaration. The Adam Smith institute has published a paper entitled ‘Doing Our Duty’, outlining a proposal, among others, for the UK government to offer automatic citizenship to the 169,000 British Nationals living in Hong Kong due to the ‘two weekends of militia and criminal violence against protestors [sic], and increasingly disruptive protest actions,’ which has resulted in ‘the Chinese Government […] issuing more interventionist rhetoric‘.
Pro-democracy protesters attend a rally in the Hung Hom district of Hong Kong on August 17, 2019.
The final suggestion is that the Johnson government should act immediately by ‘either granting asylum without restriction on work and residency for Hong Kongers fleeing the regime, or, more liberally, […] extending the designation of British National (Overseas) to all current residents of Hong Kong, with an extension of the rights of that designation to be equivalent to that of British Citizens as defined under the British Nationality Act 1981‘.
The Communist Party of China is breaking Hong Kong, and it is crucial for the United Kingdom to play a front-and-centre role in liberating the citizens of its former colony. The British government must urgently send a clear signal that the people of Hong Kong are not up for sale to China, that they are welcome in the UK should they require our hospitality, and first-and-foremost that the rights of Hong Kong citizens as set out in the 1997 Declaration are non-negotiable. Not only would this move mean a ‘moral and material victory‘ for Britain through our gaining of many skilled, English-speaking, culturally-aligned people, but it would serve to put pressure on China to respect the Joint Declaration of 1997 which guarantees Hong Kong’s freedom until 2047 and allow the region to prosper without interference from Beijing.