“Where’s the outrage over China’s doublecross of Hong Kong?”

BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson writes a scathing column accusing the UK and other world powers of turning their backs on China’s subversion of its “One Country, Two Systems” promise.

Last Monday the convenient fiction on which Britain handed over Hong Kong to China (“one country, two systems”) came to an end. The Standing Committee of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, declared that the inhabitants of Hong Kong could not elect their chief executive in 2007, nor vote for more than half the seats in the territory’s legislature in 2008.

Was there a wave of public outrage in Britain? What do you think? Some newspapers ran the kind of short, worthy column that only means one thing: the foreign editor can’t ignore the subject completely, but wants to get rid of it as fast as possible. The BBC’s Ten O’Clock News ran a stylish and intelligent report on the subject from its Beijing correspondent.

Otherwise there was a big public silence. The Foreign Office called in the Chinese ambassador to complain. The Americans, who to their credit have shown more concern for Hong Kong than the British, condemned the Chinese move publicly.

But that’s the extent of it. Seven years after the hand-over, the spirit of the Chinese-British deal has been destroyed, and we prefer to ignore it. In slightly menacing celebration, eight Chinese warships sailed into Hong Kong harbour last week, the biggest show of Chinese naval strength there since 1997.

He makes the case that the UK is appeasing China in the worst way, and that someday it may have to pay a heavy price for refusing to stand up to China while it still could.

The Discussion: 16 Comments

“One Country, Two Systems” is the idea that Hong Kong will maintain its capitalist economy after returning to China, which had a state-planned socialist economy in 1984 when the agreement was signed between Britain and China. It has everything to do with the economy and nothing to do with the political system. If anything, Hong Kong today is far more democratic than any point under British rule.

May 2, 2004 @ 2:06 pm | Comment

The betryal is in regard to free elections. That is the point the author is making, not HK’s capitalist financial system, but its political system.

May 2, 2004 @ 2:28 pm | Comment

the previous commentor has got to be kidding.

May 2, 2004 @ 2:36 pm | Comment

Hong Kong is so democratic that it’s Chief Executive is actually a croney to Beijing, doesn’t listen to his constituents, and frequently refuses to comment on anything regarding an action that requires his free and independent opinion on an issue.

So “Democratic” is Hong Kong that it will now become the stooge of China and then ultimately have to follow all of the rules that Beijing makes its other provinces follow, complete with political punishment and ostracization.

Beijing already refuses to allow certain members of Legco to talk openly to Beijing politicians, in fact, several are on a list that, when Beijing politicians try to bring up their name, they are promptly refused, or the subject is changed rapidly.

Some of them are no longer invited to China for discussions, simply because they wish to reinforce the idea that Hong Kong was abstrusely and wickedly promised a move to free elections in 2007. And now that promise has been “reinterpreted” to mean “indefinite possibility.”

It’s so “democratic” that China practices that old theory of “don’t argue” that Deng Xiaoping made possible.

So, everybody shut up and do as Beijing says, is the current theme.


Your pal,

Hong Kong

“Livin’ it, Lovin’ it!”

ps. Love that move to put a fleet of ships in the harbour on May Day! Love those battleships!

May 2, 2004 @ 2:40 pm | Comment

Boy, well said. It really sounds like it’s getting scary. Are HKers concerned that soon complainers will start disappearing?

May 2, 2004 @ 4:08 pm | Comment

On one hand, all external pressure is good to push CCP to reform. I am glad to see external pressure is taking effect.

On the other hand, according to this article at Asian Times,
law is on China’s side.

Furthermore, admitted or not, a fair amount of people from the west secretly hope HK can be a weapon to topple CCP. Martin Lee allied himself with those people.

What would happen is Martin Luther King received money from CCP for his civil rights movement to abolish aparthaid? Is that acceptable? I think he would be thrown in jail in no time.

From that perspective, CCP is not that bad. At least, Martin Lee is still free.

May 2, 2004 @ 5:02 pm | Comment

Steve, why do you say many in the west want to see HK used to topple the CCP? That’s news to me. I think a lot of us are hoping that freedom in HK will help put pressure on the CCP to reform, but I haven’t hear about toppling.

from that perspective CCP is not that bad. At least, Martin Lee is still free.

There are plenty of thousands of others in China who are not free, maybe even millions. From that perspective, CCP is very, very bad, no?

May 2, 2004 @ 5:09 pm | Comment

I think that when dealing with China you can’t say “well, it’s not so bad,” because there is so much you can’t see from HOng Kong, or the West.

It’s bad. I’ve talked to some people who I work with and for, and many of them have privately voiced their concerns that Hong Kong is not a place they want to live in anymore.

There not talking like the NPC will sound out directives that will have people arrested, but I think, from a standard of living perspective and from the perspective of their children’s futures, they don’t want Hong Kong to be the place.

I’ve heard of people wanting to move to London, Paris, and even Singapore. These are Hong Kong people, born and raised here.

I won’t comment any further on the politics of China in this thread. I think it’s obvious if you live here that you can’t say, “Oh, it’s not so bad,” because the daily “invigoration” you read about in the SCMP, and on the television, and the things you see China doing, openly and in a backstabbing way, to the law that was written to protect that kind of thing from happening just becomes something to get bitter about.

But I suppose this happens everywhere.

“Oh, a law that protects the autonomy of an independent city,” you can hear them saying in their board room. “Wellllll, then….we’re the NPC, right? Let’s just show them what Law is. There. A few paragraphs rearranged. Oh, nicely worded, too, for ambiguity. Let’s make it mean Beijing is in control.”

And so they did.

And so they will continue to do.

May 2, 2004 @ 6:29 pm | Comment

Doug, you certainly sound outspoken on this topic. Considering moving back home anytime soon?

May 2, 2004 @ 7:28 pm | Comment


actually, richard, i just got an offer for a masters in journalism degree. so i might be in asia for a while. at least, i hope so.

to me–and this is admitting my privilege as an expatriate–where i live is not so important. i’m really in search of what is going on in asia, so i am compatible with anything.

if i seem outspoken, it’s really a reaction to what seems like a sudden change in tactics by china. it is a little unnerving. and it’s hypocrisy.

but, i stay in good spirits. asia is incredible.

May 2, 2004 @ 9:01 pm | Comment


Yes, I know the author is talking about HK’s political system. He (along with most of western media) is making it sound like the recent political developments are somehow violating the “One Country, Two System” promise, when 1C2S has nothing to do with the politics and everything to do with economics.


So your idea of democracy in Hong Kong is a colonial governor appointed by London? Sure, Beijing appointed Tung just like the British used to appoint governors, but at least Tung is a Hong Konger and not some random white guy from England who’s never set foot in Hong Kong. Yes, only 30 of the 60 members of the legislature will be elected by popular vote in the next election, but how is that worse than when Hong Kong was under British rule, when there wasn’t even a legislature until the final days before the handover and then only with 12 out of 60 members elected by popular vote?

May 2, 2004 @ 10:39 pm | Comment

Remember the Basic Law clearly states that Hong Kong should be run by Hong Kongers (not the NPC). It also still states that the ultimate goal for Hong Kong is the election of the Chief Executive and Legco by universal suffrage. Even the NPC doesn’t deny this. If this isn’t political, then I’m not sure what politics is.

One country, two systems is about Hong Kong maintaining a separation of powers between legislative, executive, and judicial branches (despite the commentary of Comrade Xu Chongde.) If an independent judiciary is not a political structure, then perhaps Hui Mao can enlighten me where the line between politics and economics is.

Maybe the powers that be in Hong Kong should stop saying that Hong Kongers need to learn more about what One Country Two Systems means and start teaching folks on the mainland exactly what parts of the Basic Law are routinely being broken by the mainland NPC.

May 3, 2004 @ 5:04 am | Comment

Tung isn’t a HOng Konger. Isn’t he from Shanghai?

And, by the way, I never said that Hong Kong should suffer colonial rule. It’s exactly why I’m against the switchback the NPC is pulling here. They are colonialists, just as well.

Don’t confuse me with a brit longing for those good old days of repression.

May 3, 2004 @ 5:21 am | Comment

Joseph Bosco Brings Up the Name of Jiao Guobiao

There’s not much to the post, really, only Mr. Bosco

May 3, 2004 @ 7:28 am | Comment

Maybe the powers that be in Hong Kong should stop saying that Hong Kongers need to learn more about what One Country Two Systems means and start teaching folks on the mainland exactly what parts of the Basic Law are routinely being broken by the mainland NPC.

Don’t hold your breath.

May 3, 2004 @ 10:01 am | Comment

IMO Hui Mao is dead wrong as to what 1C2S was meant to mean and allow; maybe he is maliciously so. It seems he is trying to create a belief that was never in the Basic Law in the first place, just like NPC has done in its Universal Suffering ruling.

It is time now to get out the Red Flag and Mao pictures to show BJ obidience. Then you HKers will have become mature.

The CCP, I predict, will never let HKers have free and unfettered Universal Sufferage unless it is forced to do so by factors outside CCP’s control. Whatever BJ grants HK in the way of voting will be like it deals with recognized churches in China.

May 5, 2004 @ 11:07 pm | Comment

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