FROM CREATION OF INDEPENDENCE TREATY AND SINCE, UK CEDED TO THE COMMUNIST TAKEOVER, DID NOTHING WHEN IT COULD HAVE AND STILL CAN
By Robert Weiner and Abby Paras
Great Britain has been silent about its role in the suppression of Hong Kong by inaction despite its original agreement to assure freedoms from the creation of the independence treaty and since the UK ceded to the Communist takeover, and did nothing when it could have and still can. Hong Kong's freedom of speech and of the press is rapidly waning as mainland China asserts more and more control. The proposed extradition bill that led to the 2019 protests in Hong Kong is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the oppressive policies the Communist Party of China (CCP) has implemented. In June 2020, Beijing passed a national security law on Hong Kong that allowed mainland security agencies to establish a presence there. The law led to mass arrests of pro-democracy activists by the CCP.
In June of 2021, the newsroom of one of the most prominent pro-democracy newspapers, the Apple Daily, was raided and editors were arrested and journalists were threatened into silence.
Great Britain must speak up and act to prevent further suppression of free speech in Hong Kong.
Ever since Great Britain's handover of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong has lost more and more freedom to mainland China. Though many of these problems stem directly from the Chinese government's laws aimed at furthering their control over Hong Kong, Great Britain should not be excused from responsibility.
Great Britain originally acquired Hong Kong in its entirety in 1898. Hong Kong then developed as a western colony until the 1970s when the CCP began to discuss Hong Kong's sovereignty. After years of negotiations, the CCP and Great Britain reached an agreement and signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Although the treaty states "the current social and economic systems in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, and so will the lifestyle," Britain failed to negotiate any safeguards or assurances. That was a huge mistake. It is clear that mainland China is disregarding the "unchanged" provisions and has been and is moving in to claim Hong Kong as its own. The British government has done nothing to ensure China will follow the treaty.
The Chinese government has stated in typical bureaucratic language that the Declaration is a "historical document" and therefore they should not have to abide by it, and they continue to stand by the "one country, two systems" rule. Unless Great Britain steps in with strong statements that would properly embarrass China (they always whine but respond to avoid embarrassment), the loss of freedom in Hong Kong will only worsen with time.
Many of these issues came to a head in 2019 when the Hong Kong government attempted to introduce an extradition bill that would allow criminals from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Macau to be extradited back to the mainland for sentencing. Pro-Democracy activist and former Hong Kong legislator Lee Cheuk Yan stated in an interview with NPR that "it's very easy for the Chinese government to demand that the Hong Kong government turn in the Hong Kong activist [...] to China to be [put on] trial." He continued, "everyone knows that [...] once you go in China, then there's no fair trial."
Even worse, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam welcomed the changes to the relationship with the mainland. She stated "the [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] Government welcomes the passage of the national security law by the [Standing Committee of the National People's Congress]." Although demands were made for her to resign, she has refused and continues to back a pro-Beijing stance.
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