Since early last year, Hong Kong has been thrown back into the spotlight of global politics. It is no secret that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has forced Hong Kong into a difficult position within world politics. In order to understand why this has happened, we must understand the complexities and difficulties within this issue.
What is clear is one thing – Hong Kong deserves to be the master of its own fate. Under the Thatcher government of the 1980s, the United Kingdom signed the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. Under this agreement had it been agreed that, starting from 1997 to 2047, Hong Kong would undergo a ‘handover period’. What this entailed was that Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) in which it would have its own internal politics and special rights, one being that of its own internal autonomy. Since 2019, it has become clear that China has failed the Sino-British Joint Declaration and in turn the United Kingdom has failed Hong Kong. This failure has seen the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy against its neighbouring state. The positive thing around the recent Hong Kong protests is that it has let the mask on China slip and has brought international news onto these pressing issues.
The United Kingdom should have done the following in 1997: it should have offered the possibility of two votes to be given to Hong Kongers; the first vote being “Do you consent to being made a part of the People’s Republic of China?”. If the answer had been “Yes”, then Hong Kong should have then been given over to China. If the answer had been “No”, then the second question would have been called. The second question should have then been “Do you want to continue being part of the United Kingdom or do you want to have independence?”.
By not doing this, the UK turned its back on the principle of consent. Its political system and ideological approach is innately built around the ideas of property rights, the concepts around which laws are built. When it came to 1997, the United Kingdom broke that. This is important because this should not have been a decision to be made by the United Kingdom or China, but by Hong Kong. Because of this, the United Kingdom needs to address its failings and right these wrongs while it still can. This will become ever more apparent in the coming months as further protests engulf Hong Kong.
From this, it is important to wonder in what ways the UK plays a role. Brexit for many British people was an act of self-determination and assertiveness taking hold once more. As Britain moves towards rediscovering its own maturity, Hong Kong falls into place towards it. The Conservative Government should not shy away from these issues. Instead, it needs to show maturity and begin to reassert itself on the world stage.
The Conservative Government and the UK at large needs to support the cause of Hong Kong’s independence. Firstly, this is because it is symbolic of liberty over tyranny. Secondly, it would send a strong message to the world. Since its inception in 1949, the PRC has conducted countless crimes against humanity. Under Mao’s Great Leap Forward and five-year plans, millions of Chinese peasants died with ethnic and religious minorities being purged from China by its government. Uighur Muslims have been forced into ‘re-education’ camps and students murdered in the tens of thousands in 1989. Even today, since 2014, China has economically neo-colonised Africa.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn argued that a single act of telling the truth could have the power to take down tyranny, when he challenged the USSR in the early 1960s. Following this, the UK needs to show the world its core values. This is the perfect opportunity for that.
The Conservatives must reassert the key ideals of freedom and fraternity within the Commonwealth. The issue of Hong Kong is perfectly symbolic of this. By supporting Hong Kong and its independence, it would highlight one of the most pressing issues within world politics. Hong Kong does not deserve the fate that mainland China forces upon it. The United Kingdom and its Conservative Government should support this cause out of moral necessity, and to help place Hong Kong as the captain of its own fate.
Supporting Hong Kong’s independence would also send a strong message to the world. It would help highlight and generate greater emphasis on the issues being faced by Hong Kong and, by extension, Chinese citizens. As the world pivots its attention towards China in the coming post-coronavirus world, Hong Kong too will generate further attention. The UK cannot be complacent. The issues of freedom and liberty are core tenets within the West, and have developed within Hong Kong following its colonial past. The UK could consider legally challenging China on its position within the Sino-British Joint Declaration, for instance.
Hong Kong was never asked, or consulted on any of these issues. The only political thing Hong Kongers have openly spoken out about is this issue. It is about time they became the masters of their fate.
Featured image credit: The Spectator
Originally published on The Mallard