Britain did a good job with Hong Kong for the world, said Margaret Thatcher (video)

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 April, 2013, 7:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

The death of the former British prime minister has triggered much reminiscing in Hong Kong and about Hong Kong.

But an Italian news site said it best in its headline: “Hong Kong, Margaret Thatcher’s weakness”.

Margaret Thatcher’s role in the lead up to the territory’s handover to Beijing was monumental. According to her critics, she let the colony down when she dropped a plan for London to administer Hong Kong after 1997.

In an interview prior to the handover, Thatcher tells a Hong Kong journalist that she believes Britain did a good job with the territory in the last years of colonial rule.

A good job for Hong Kong, a good job for the world... Britain has demonstrated that Chinese people are immensely talented. Chinese people here have no natural resources. Chinese people in China are immensly talented; they have natural resources. Now why is it the Chinese people in Hong Kong have done so brilliantly well in creating prosperity while Chinese people in China have not? ... The difference is, the philosophy of government.

Later in the video clip, Thatcher says she believes Hong Kong will “eventually have the full freedoms even beyond the joint declaration and the Basic Law... and gradually so will China”. Big words from the Iron Lady.

They were words that fell drastically short, at least by the standards of several Hong Kong activists.

Thatcher “didn’t look after the well-being of Hong Kong people”, legislator Emily Lau told the Wall Street Journal.

Thatcher did, however, get praise from another corner of Asia: Beijing.

The state-run Global Times newspaper concedes that Thatcher “made her biggest compromise as prime minister in this [handover] issue” and that "we have reasons to show respect", but it also reminds us:

The world should move on.

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