I seem to recall between 1987 -1996 in my former trade union debating the Handover of Hong Kong to China which I recommended to my former trade union Conference for reference back I remember there was a very big split on the debate. I make no apologies for allowing the debate to take place and in one sense I was glad that I had the opportunity to state my case by informing delegates the mover was anti-China as the mover was pro Hong Kong and I was and still am pro-China and I felt that the motion was one-sided and it was by applying the common sense approach which won the day and the motion was put to the vote and reference back won the day.
Nobody would have anticipated that this motion caused passionate debates from all sides of the conference and the then president and general secretary got involved which would have not make no difference as the atmosphere was like a us and them at one point as some of the delegates where not engaged with the Chinese political scene as there were on two Chinese members who could really could argue for and against whilst some delegates who thought they knew about the situation but it turned out to be limited with the information as the mover fail to produce the additional information that was required to sway the delegates.
Let’s us all not lose focus here for one moment that Hong Kong’s territory was acquired from three separate treaties: the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, the Treaty of Beijing in 1860, and The Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory in 1898, which gave the UK the control of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon (area south of Boundary Street), and the New Territories (area north of Boundary Street and south of the Shenzhen River, and outlying islands), respectively. Although Hong Kong Island and Kowloon had been ceded to the United Kingdom in perpetuity, the control on the New Territories was a 99-year lease. The finite nature of the 99-year lease did not hinder Hong Kong’s development as the New Territories were combined as a part of Hong Kong. By 1997, it was impractical to separate the three territories and only return the New Territories. In addition, with the scarcity of land and natural resources in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, the New Territories were being developed with large-scale infrastructures and other developments, with the break-even day lying well past 30 June 1997. Thus, the status of the New Territories after the expiry of the 99-year lease became important for Hong Kong’s economic development.
In March 1979, the Governor of Hong Kong Murray MacLehose paid his first official visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), taking the initiative to raise the question of Hong Kong’s sovereignty with Deng Xiaoping. Without clarifying and establishing the official position of the PRC government, the arranging of real estate leases and loans agreements in Hong Kong within the next 18 years would be rather difficult. In fact, as early as the mid-1970s, Hong Kong had faced additional risks raising loans for large scale infrastructure projects such as its MTR system and a new airport. Caught unprepared, Deng asserted the necessity of Hong Kong’s return to China, upon which Hong Kong would be given special status by the PRC government. MacLehose’s visit to the PRC raised the curtain on the issue of Hong Kong’s sovereignty: Britain was made very much aware of the PRC’s aspiration to resume sovereignty over Hong Kong and began to make arrangements accordingly to ensure the sustenance of her interests within the territory, as well as initiating the creation of a withdrawal plan in case of emergency. Three years later, Deng received the former British Prime Minister Edward Heath. Heath had been dispatched as the special envoy of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to establish an understanding of the PRC’s view with regards to the question of Hong Kong. Throughout their meeting, Deng stated clearly for the first time the PRC’s willingness to settle the sovereignty issue with Britain through formal negotiations. In the same year, Edward Youde, who succeeded MacLehose as the 26th Governor of Hong Kong, led a delegation of five Executive Councillors to London, including Chung Sze-yuen, Lydia Dunn, and Roger Lobo. Chung presented their position on the sovereignty of Hong Kong to Thatcher, encouraging her to take into consideration the interests of the native Hong Kong population in her upcoming visit to China. In light of the increasing openness of the PRC government and economic reforms on the mainland, then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sought the PRC’s agreement to a continued British presence in the territory. However, the PRC took a contrary position: not only did the PRC wish for the New Territories, on lease until 1997, to be placed under the PRC’s jurisdiction, it also refused to recognise the “unfair and unequal treaties” under which Hong Kong Island and Kowloon had been ceded to Britain in perpetuity. Consequently, the PRC recognised only the British administration in Hong Kong, but not British sovereignty.
In the wake of Governor MacLehose’s visit, Britain and the PRC established initial diplomatic contact for further discussions of the Hong Kong question, paving the way for Thatcher’s first visit to the PRC in September 1982. Margaret Thatcher, in discussion with Deng Xiaoping, reiterated the validity of an extension of the lease of Hong Kong territory, particularly in light of binding treaties, including the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, the Convention of Peking in 1856, and the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory signed in 1890. In response, Deng Xiaoping cited clearly the lack of room for compromise on the question of sovereignty over Hong Kong; the PRC, as the successor of Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China on the mainland, would recover the entirety of the New Territories, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.
During talks with Thatcher, China planned to invade and seize Hong Kong if the negotiations set off unrest in the colony. Thatcher later said that Deng told her bluntly that China could easily take Hong Kong by force, stating that “I could walk in and take the whole lot this afternoon”. Thatcher replied that “there is nothing I could do to stop you, but the eyes of the world would now know what China is like”.
After her visit with Deng in Beijing, Thatcher was received in Hong Kong as the first British Prime Minister to set foot on the territory whilst in office. At a press conference, Thatcher re-emphasised the validity of the three treaties, asserting the need for countries to respect treaties on universal terms: “treaties ought always to be respected; without such respect, without such necessary trust, it was impossible for any negotiations to take place”.
At the same time, at the 5th session of the 5th National People’s Congress, the constitution was amended to include a new clause which stated that the country might establish a special administrative region (SAR) when necessary. The additional clause would hold tremendous significance in settling the question of Hong Kong and later Macau, putting into social consciousness the concept of “One country, two systems“.
A few months after Thatcher’s visit to Beijing, the PRC government had still yet to open negotiations with the British government regarding the sovereignty of Hong Kong. Unsure of what to do, Thatcher consulted former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, though consultation proved fruitless in the end. Shortly before the initiation of sovereignty talks, Governor Youde declared his intention to represent the population of Hong Kong at the negotiations. This statement sparked a strong response from the PRC, which criticised Britain for “making a three-legged stool” and “playing public-opinion cards” as bargaining chips. At the preliminary stage of the talks, the British government proposed an exchange of sovereignty for administration and the implementation of a British administration post-handover. The PRC government refused, contending that the notions of sovereignty and administration were inseparable, and although it recognised Macau as a “Chinese territory under Portuguese administration”, it also sought the return of that territory.
The conflict that arose at that point of the negotiations ended the possibility of further negotiation. During the reception of former British Prime Minister Edward Heath during his sixth visit to the PRC, Deng Xiaoping commented quite clearly on the impossibility of exchanging sovereignty for administration, declaring an ultimatum: the British government must modify or give up its position or the PRC will announce its resolution of the issue of Hong Kong sovereignty unilaterally.
In 1983, Typhoon Ellen ravaged Hong Kong, causing great amounts of damage to both life and property. The Hong Kong dollar plummeted onBlack Saturday, and the Financial Secretary of Hong Kong John Bremridge publicly associated the economic uncertainty with the instability of the political climate. In response, the PRC government condemned Britain through the press for “playing the economic cards” in order to achieve their ends: to intimidate the PRC into conceding to British demands.
Governor Youde with nine members of the Hong Kong Executive Council travelled to London to discuss with Prime Minister Thatcher the crisis of confidence – the problem with morale among the people of Hong Kong arising from the ruination of the Sino-British talks. The session concluded with Thatcher’s writing of a letter addressed to the PRC Premier Zhao Ziyang; in it, she expressed Britain’s willingness to explore arrangements optimising the future prospects of Hong Kong while utilising the PRC’s proposals as a foundation. Furthermore, and perhaps most significantly, she expressed Britain’s concession on its position of a continued British presence in the form of an administration post-handover.
Two rounds of negotiations were held in October and November. On the sixth round of talks in November, Britain formally conceded its intentions of either maintaining a British administration in Hong Kong or seeking some form of co-administration with the PRC, and showed its sincerity in discussing PRC’s proposal on the 1997 issue. Obstacles were cleared.
Simon Keswick, chairman of Jardine Matheson & Co., said they were not pulling out of Hong Kong, but a new holding company would be established in Bermuda instead. He remarked that it was not desirable to “put all of one’s eggs in one basket”. The PRC took this as yet another plot by the British. The Hong Kong government explained that it had been informed about the move only a few days before the announcement. The government would not and could not stop the company from making a business decision.
Just as the atmosphere of the talks was becoming cordial, members of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong felt impatient at the long-running secrecy over the progress of Sino-British talks on the Hong Kong issue. They held that the people of Hong Kong should have the right to know what was being discussed and to speak at the talks. A motion, tabled by legislator Roger Lobo, and declaring, “This Council deems it essential that any proposals for the future of Hong Kong should be debated in this Council before agreement is reached”, was passed unanimously. The PRC attacked the motion furiously, referring to it as “somebody’s attempt to play the three-legged stool trick again”. At length, the PRC and Britain initiated the Joint Declaration on the question of Hong Kong’s future in Beijing. Zhou Nan, the then PRC Deputy Foreign Minister and leader of the negotiation team, and SirRichard Evans, British Ambassador to Beijing and leader of the team, signed respectively on behalf of the two governments.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed by the Prime Ministers of the People’s Republic of China and the United Kingdom governments on 19 December 1984 in Beijing. The Declaration entered into force with the exchange of instruments of ratification on 27 May 1985 and was registered by the People’s Republic of China and United Kingdom governments at the United Nations on 12 June 1985. In the Joint Declaration, the People’s Republic of China Government stated that it had decided to resume the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong (includingHong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories) with effect from 1 July 1997 and the United Kingdom Government declared that it would restore Hong Kong to the PRC with effect from 1 July 1997. In the document, the People’s Republic of China Government also declared its basic policies regarding Hong Kong.
In accordance with the One Country, Two Systems principle agreed between the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China, the socialist system of People’s Republic of China would not be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and Hong Kong’s previous capitalist system and its way of life would remain unchanged for a period of 50 years. The Joint Declaration provides that these basic policies shall be stipulated in the Hong Kong Basic Law. The ceremony of the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration took place at 18:00, 19 December 1984 at the Western Main Chamber of the Great Hall of the People. The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office at first proposed a list of 60-80 Hong Kong people to attend the ceremony. The number was finally extended to 101. The list included Hong Kong government officials, members of the Legislative and Executive Councils, chairmen of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and Standard Chartered Bank, Hong Kong celebrities such as Li Ka-shing, Pao Yue-kong and Fok Ying-tung, and also Martin Lee Chu-ming and Szeto Wah The Basic Law was drafted by a Drafting Committee composed of members from both Hong Kong and mainland China. A Basic Law Consultative Committee formed purely by Hong Kong people was established in 1985 to canvas views in Hong Kong on the drafts. The first draft was published in April 1988, followed by a five-month public consultation exercise. The second draft was published in February 1989, and the subsequent consultation period ended in October 1989. The Basic Law was formally promulgated on 4 April 1990 by the NPC, together with the designs for the flag and emblem of the HKSAR. Some members of the Basic Law drafting committee were ousted by Beijing following the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, after voicing views supporting the students.
The Basic Law was said to be a mini-constitution drafted with the participation of Hong Kong people. The political system had been the most controversial issue in the drafting of the Basic Law. The special issue sun-group adopted the political model put forward by Louis Cha. This “main-stream” proposal was criticised for being too conservative. According to Clauses 158 and 159 of the Basic Law, powers of interpretation and amendment of the Basic Law are vested in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the National People’s Congress, respectively. Hong Kong’s people have limited influence.
Chris Patten became the last governor of Hong Kong. This was regarded as a turning point in Hong Kong’s history. Unlike his predecessors, Patten was not a diplomat, but a career politician and former Member of Parliament. He introduced democratic reforms which pushed PRC-British relations to a standstill and affected the negotiations for a smooth handover.
Patten introduced a package of electoral reforms in the Legislative Council. These reforms proposed to enlarge the electorate, thus making voting in the Legislative Council more democratic. This move posed significant changes because Hong Kong citizens would have the power to make decisions regarding their future.
The handover ceremony was held at the new wing of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai on the night of 30 June 1997. The principal British guest was Charles, Prince of Wales who read a farewell speech on behalf of the Queen. The newly elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, the British Foreign Minister Robin Cook, the departing Hong Kong governor Chris Patten and General Sir Charles Guthrie, Chief of the Defence Staff of the United Kingdom, also attended.
Representing China were the President of the People’s Republic of China, Jiang Zemin; and Tung Chee-hwa, the first Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of thePeople’s Republic of China. This event was broadcast on several television and radio stations across the world.
As much I still look toward for China to make the right move by implementing the Sino-British Joint Declaration. I have to raise my strongest object to China for not listening to student protesters after all they are the future leaders of both Hong Kong and China.
There is no doubt that the two tier system has allowed foreign investment to flow into the country which China is hoping to show the western world that they are taking the lead in this field where other communist country has failed.
Some will recall the Tinnaman Square incident which many lives were lost and is still raw in people’s memories the Chinese establishment sent out the troops to stop demonstrators from exercising their right for reform in China where not held to account for the injustice of innocent lives for this reason many Chinese internationally does not trust the Chinese regime to allow the flow of democratic free elections and hopefully all over China one day free from interference of vetting of their chosen candidates. As here is another part of history which the Chinese establishment would want us to forget if it had its way:
After the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the Executive Councillors and the Legislative Councillors unexpectedly held an urgent meeting, requesting that British Government give the right of abode in the United Kingdom to the people of Hong Kong. More than 10,000 Hong Kong residents rushed to Central in order to get an application form for residency in the United Kingdom. On the eve of the deadline, over 100,000 lined up overnight for a BN(O) application form. While mass migration did begin well before 1989, the event did lead to the peak migration year in 1992 with 66,000.
Many citizens were pessimistic towards the future of Hong Kong and the transfer of the region’s sovereignty. A tide of emigration, which was to last for no less than five years, broke out. At its peak, citizenships of such small countries as Cape Verde, Tonga, Gambia and Ecuador were also in great demand. Many consuls were deported for their corrupt behaviour in granting immigration visas.
Canada (Vancouver and Toronto), United Kingdom (London, Glasgow, and Manchester), Australia (Sydney and Melbourne), and the United States (San Francisco and New York) were, by and large, the most popular destinations. The United Kingdom devised the British Nationality Selection Scheme, granting 50,000 families British citizenship under the British Nationality Act (Hong Kong) 1990. Vancouver was among the most popular destinations, so much so that Richmond (a suburb of Vancouver) earned the nickname of “Little Hong Kong” and “New Chinatown“, and for the city itself, “HongCouver”. Other popular settlements are found in Auckland, New Zealand and Dublin, Ireland. All in all, from the start of the settlement of the negotiation in 1984 to 1997, nearly 1 million people emigrated; consequently, Hong Kong suffered serious loss of capital.
It is for this reason I call on all international Chinese, and The International Communities to lobby their respective governments to ensure that Chinese Government honour’s its agreement to allow Hong Kong Chinese to have its democratic rights to choose who they want to have as their candidates and not be dictated by the Chinese Government to vet the candidates as to not rock the boat. It clearly shows that china has no idea how to deal with this situation and that they are likely to back track on the agreements signed with the British Government.
As many will be aware that elections are due in 2015 in the UK now is the time to lobby your MP to ask them the question where do they stand on Hong Kong and ask them to highlight this issue at the Prime Question Time(PMQ)
Or click on this link to find out who your MP is: