The Free State of Hong Kong | Nathan Wilson
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 has forced Hong Kong into a difficult position within world politics. In order to understand why this has happened we must understand the complexity and difficult within this issue.
What is clear is one thing: that Hong Kong deserves to be the master of its own fate. Under the Thatcher government of the 1980’s the United Kingdom signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration (1984). Under this agreement it had 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 such right is that of its own internal autonomy. Since 2019 it has become clear that China has failed the 1984 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 protesting 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 the UK should have offered the possibility of two votes to be given to Hong Kongers: the first vote should have been “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. The United Kingdom’s 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 Hong Kong’s. 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. From this the Conservative Government should not shy away from these issues. Instead the Conservative Government 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 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 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken part in countless crimes against humanity. Under Mao’s Great Leap Forward and five-year plans millions of Chinese peasants died; ethnic and religious minorities had been purged from China by the government; Uighur Muslims have been forced into ‘re-educated’ camps; students had been murdered in tens of thousands in 1989; and 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 a tyranny, when he challenged the USSR in the early 1960’s. Following this, the UK needs to show the world its core values and this is the perfect opportunity for that.
The Conservatives must assert 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 will force on it. The United Kingdom and its Conservative government should support this cause out of moral necessity, and help to place Hong Kong as the captain of its own fate.
Supporting Hong Kong Independence would also send a strong message to the world. It would help highlight and generate greater emphasis onto 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 and 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 were asked, or consulted on any of these issues. The only political thing Hong Kong people have openly spoken out about is this issue. It is about time Hong Kong citizens became the masters of their fate.