My Take

Hong Kong localists are the true culprits breaching the Joint Declaration

Some, like the last governor Chris Patten, blame the British; but given where we are today, it is the localists – and those who encourage them – who are selling our city down the river

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 January, 2017, 1:51am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 January, 2017, 2:04am

Chris Patten, speaking to the BBC, has blasted the British government for selling out Hong Kong. It’s not the first time the last governor has rounded on his government for kowtowing to the mainland in its pursuit of trade and business interests to the exclusion of democracy and civil rights in Hong Kong. That’s also a charge that has been made repeatedly in the past 20 years by such local democrats as Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Martin Lee Chu-ming.

You say honour; I say meddling. It’s hard to see how their oft-repeated criticisms hold water. The time for the British to do the honourable thing is long gone. They should have granted full citizenship to Hong Kong people before the transfer of sovereignty in 1997. Having failed that, the best thing they could do is to leave us Chinese alone to work it out among ourselves.

What can Britain do anyway? What leverage does it have? When the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed in 1984, British GDP was a third bigger than that of China. Today, China’s GDP is almost four-and-a-half times Britain’s. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s GDP has shrunk from 16 per cent of the mainland’s in 1997 to less than 3 per cent today.

Chris Patten questions UK’s ‘sense of honour’ over Hong Kong’s future

Patten is honest enough never to have claimed that China has violated the Joint Declaration – at least to my knowledge. People like Lee, Chan and other pan-democrats have repeated this highly contested judgment as if it were a fact. Ironically, I find comedian Russell Brand’s assessment of Hong Kong’s lack of democracy with Britain’s lack of the same far more insightful than most mainstream British news reports. Look it up on YouTube.

The Joint Declaration makes no mention of universal suffrage or democracy; you need the Basic Law for that. The closest it gets to that is “on the basis of the results of elections or consultations to be held locally” for choosing the chief executive. The Basic Law, alas, is a matter solely between Hong Kong and the mainland.

The Joint Declaration also cites “the United Kingdom and other countries, whose economic interests in Hong Kong will be given due regard”. It explicitly spells out “national unity and territorial integrity” for China. So yes, the Joint Declaration has been breached – by localists who want independence and pan-democrats who encourage them.