Let's recognise Britain's part in transforming the 'barren rock'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2008, 12:00am

Britain's foreign minister, David Miliband, will give a briefing in Hong Kong today on the relationship between Britain and China, with particular reference to Hong Kong. Many of my (older) age group remember with gratitude all that Britain did to develop Hong Kong, and especially the efforts of our last governor, Chris Patten.

Most Hong Kong people come from families that relocated here from the mainland a couple of generations ago. There were hardly any real locals when Britain took on the then 'barren rock'. They came here to make a better life for themselves and for their descendants, and that is what they achieved. In so doing, they helped build Hong Kong.

The international metropolis which Hong Kong is today was only made possible under that benign colonial rule. Comparable places on the mainland have only in the present generation started to catch up with Hong Kong economically. In terms of personal safety on the street, respect for private property, protection under the law, freedom of speech, and limiting official and business corruption, Hong Kong is still way ahead.

Sure, the work has been mostly done by Chinese people, but how can Hong Kong's earlier and much faster development be explained, when compared to mainland cities? The range of opportunities provided for business development, under a free market economy, went a long way towards giving Hong Kong that long-lasting edge. Now things are improving on the mainland, and high time too. But still millions of mainlanders dream of living here, whereas few Hong Kong residents would welcome relocating to the mainland.

As a co-signatory to the Joint Declaration, Britain has a duty to monitor the fair and proper implementation of Hong Kong's protected special arrangements, until the expiry of that mandate in 2047. Mr Miliband will probably comment on these matters while in Hong Kong. Some are likely to complain if he says anything at all about Hong Kong, calling it foreign interference. But such criticisms overlook Britain's right and obligation to see that we in Hong Kong continue to benefit from special protection until 2047.

Mary Pang, Kwai Chung