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Carrie Lam

Hong Kong vs UK interests: there was only one choice for colonial officers

  • It is unfair to claim Carrie Lam failed where colonial officers succeeded in standing up for the city. In a clash, local interests inevitably took a back seat
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 6:08am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 6:08am

I refer to Kevin Rafferty’s op-ed (“Lam should stand up for Hong Kong”, November 18), in which he made some unfair criticisms against Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor for not standing up for Hong Kong.

It is true that many British and local officials did serve the city with Hong Kong’s interests uppermost in their minds. Yet, Mr Rafferty may not be aware that they had to be overruled by the United Kingdom government when Hong Kong’s interests clashed with national interests, or conflicted with the UK’s “core values”.

Mr Rafferty may not be aware that, in 1982, when the UK was at war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, the senior local official serving as Hong Kong’s representative to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was instructed to support sanctions against Argentina, notwithstanding that Hong Kong was an active member of the “developing country” camp in trade and had always sided with Argentina on trade matters.

Mr Rafferty may not be aware that, after the fall of Saigon in 1975, Hong Kong was instructed to declare itself “the port of first asylum” for the Vietnamese boatpeople, over the strong objections of the local community.

The locals objected bitterly to the “asylum” policy, not only because of the tremendous expense and the many serious security and overcrowding problems the policy caused, but also because, at that time, Hong Kong authorities were turning away the spouses and children of local residents from mainland China every day.

Moreover, when it comes to China’s resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, the UK took early, pre-emptive action to amend the British Nationality Act so as to slam the door on the British nationals in Hong Kong, most of whom were ethnic Chinese.

Revealed: Britain’s ‘disgraceful’ efforts to deny nationality to Hongkongers

The case for independence or self-determination for Hong Kong is, at best, a tenuous one. Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does give “all peoples” the right of self-determination, in the sense of the right to determine their political status and pursue freely their economic, social and cultural development. It means people could emigrate if they wish. But that does not give the people the right to take away a country’s territory and change the nationality status and property rights of others without their consent.

Regina Ip, member, Legislative Council of Hong Kong