From 1997: "Hong Kong on the auction block"

Submitted by Wheeler_G96 on 3 December, 2021 - 1:17
1997 Hong Kong handover

Editorial in Workers' Liberty magazine 39, April 1997. At the time of republishing (December 2021), the Chinese government has just spent two years radically demolishing Hong Kong's freedoms.


A century and half a go Britain was the great world power, the pioneer and bearer of a new type of production by steam-driven machinery; her navy ruled the world's seas. By contrast, China was an ancient civilisation, grown decrepit and spiralling into decay and disintegration.

Britain fought a series of wars to force China to open its borders to opium from British-ruled India - the "opium wars". Britain forced the Chinese imperial state to hand over the territories that are now Hong Kong. This was shameful, brutal imperialism.

In the middle of 1997, the forced "unequal treaty" that gave Hong Kong to Britain expires. Hong Kong goes back under Beijing rule.

The end of British rule in Hong Kong will be no less shameful than its beginning. In fact it will be worse.

150 years ago, a thinly populated barren territory was taken from a corrupt autocratic government with no democratic mandate. On 1 July 1997 4 million people who have a distinct identity and a long history separate from that of China will be handed over to the totalitarian neo-Stalinist government of mainland China.

Nobody asked the people of Hong Kong what they want, for the good reason that it is already known. The handover to Beijing takes place against the will of the big majority of the Hong Kong people. Mrs Thatcher made the treacherous agreement with Beijing's neo-Stalinists under which Hong Kong will be handed over; the British Tory government has done all it can in the last 15 years to ensure a smooth handover, acting as the trustee and agent in Hong Kong of the totalitarian government of Beijing.

In order not to embarrass Beijing or make the transition difficult, they have made sure that there would be no democratically elected Hong Kong legislature that could act as a focus for resistance and prove difficult for the neo-Stalinists to suppress.

British Tories have acted as enforcers and advance trouble shooters for Chinese Stalinism! Now they are about to deliver the people of Hong Kong to them, politically bound hand and foot.

The only half-way serious political argument for handing over Hong Kong like this is that the territory and the people are a natural part of "China" and that the 'nationality principle' overrides everything else.

Nobody but a mystical Chinese nationalist would think that consideration decisive. There are higher things than the nationality principle - the right of the people of Hong Kong to enjoy what they have of liberty; their right not to be forced under neo-Stalinist rule; their right to democratic government; their right to self-determination. Compared to China, Hong Kong's liberties are considerable. Despite its lack of democratic self-government, compared with neo-Stalinist China, Hong Kong is an oasis of human freedom.

Hong Kong is separated from the state which on 1 July takes it over by an entire progressive epoch of human history.

Not principle, but the relationship of forces in the area - where China is now strong and Britain comparatively weak - and British commercial calculations, determine what is going to happen on 1 July. This "handing back" of this Hong Kong now will be more shameful and brutal than was Britain's land grab 150 years ago.

Even at the eleventh hour it is worthwhile saying what the British government would have said if Thatcher were a consistent democrat and not a Tory: Hong Kong should not "go back" to Chinese control unless the majority of its people want that. Hong Kong should be allowed to elect a democratic parliament to look out for its interests.

Self-determination is an essential element of democracy. Those who are not for self-determination for distinct entities are not democrats.

We say: self-determination for Hong Kong!

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