I don’t know much about Hong Kong. I know it’s a former British colony, of course, handed back to China in an international agreement in 1997, but apart from that I’m not familiar with the politics of the city. In writing what I’m about to, I am afraid I’ll sound like a British imperialist, desperate for the revival of a long dead empire. Yet I must say how disturbing I’m finding China’s attitude towards the city; they seem to be acting with a type of arrogance I find infuriating.
As I understand it, after ’97, the UK signed a treaty with china which guaranteed Hong Kong a certain degree of independence and it’s citizens certain democratic rights. Yet now, according to the UK news at least, China has ripped up that treaty and seems to be acting as if it can do what it likes with Hong Kong, overtly trying to interfere with it’s elections in order that it can make it’s government entirely pro-Beijing. China obviously wants to take Hong Kong for it’s own, probably because it knows what an international economic powerhouse it is. And when the UK tries to object to what China is trying to do, China tells us to butt out of it’s internal affairs and accuses us of imperialism.
That leaves commentators like me in a delicate, although rather interesting, position: it boils down to a question of which type of imperialism you object to more. Do we, as the former colonial ruler, still have the right to interfere in the affairs of a now independent colony? On the other hand, it’s blatantly obvious that China is acting aggressively and arrogantly, and thinks it has a right to tear up a treaty and dominate a city and it’s people. Thus we have two manifestations of imperialism vying against one another.
I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that part of me thinks that the UK should reclaim Hong Kong: if china refuses to respect the treaty, why shouldn’t we reassert British rule? But then I realise how daft and right wing that sounds, and remember that the UK couldn’t possibly compete militarily with China. Yet letting Beijing just do what it wants seems equally wrong: Hong Kong is not Chinese just as it isn’t British.
The situation is therefore at a stalemate, but what concerns me is that that stalemate will cause greater and greater tensions between the UK and China, and we’re in enough trouble as it is. A severe economic recession, Brexit, Trump and the pandemic have converged to the point where international tensions are higher than they have been for decades; this dispute over Hong Kong will only add to them. With Trumps reelection and the realities of Brexit coming up, we are fast approaching an impasse. I do not know how it will all resolve itself, but I’m now very worried that it will not end well at all.