On 1 July 1997 sovereignty over the British colony of Hong Kong can be formally transferred to the Individuals’s Republic of China (PRC). The territory is being returned to China on that date as a result of the British lease on the so-called New Territories, which make up the vast majority of the land space of Hong Kong, expires after ninety-nine years. Though sovereignty over Hong Kong Island and Kowloon was ceded to the British Crown in perpetuity in 1841 and 1860 respectively, the British authorities determined that continued possession of those small territories was not an choice on both political or financial grounds and the whole territory of Hong Kong can be handed over to Beijing on 1 July.
The switch of Hong Kong from British to Chinese language sovereignty has raised questions concerning the capability of the territory to keep up the financial efficiency which has seen it develop from a backwater within the 1950s to a rich industrialised financial system at this time. Hong Kong has performed a key function as a bridge between China and the surface world and an vital half in selling the fast growth of the Chinese language financial system for the reason that reforms begun in 1978. The handover has additionally aroused fears inside Hong Kong and internationally that integration right into a China dominated by an authoritarian however more and more unsure post-Maoist regime will deliver to an finish the political freedoms and respect for the rule of regulation and human rights which the territory has loved below British rule. A deteriorating political and human rights scenario in Hong Kong after 1997 might result in an outflow of refugees and friction between China and different nations within the Asia-Pacific area, particularly the US. Such points are of main significance for Australia as a result of Hong Kong is now a significant commerce and funding companion and since political issues within the territory would inevitably have an effect on Australia’s delicate relationship with China.
This paper outlines the background to the problems concerned within the handover of Hong Kong to China and why it’s such an emotive nationwide challenge for China. It discusses the significance of Hong Kong in China’s financial transformation and the probability that the territory will proceed to prosper after 1997. It additionally examines the controversy between Britain and China over the reform of Hong Kong’s Legislature and the prospects for the safety of civil liberties and human rights after 1997.
Hong Kong and China: The Legacy of Historical past
Hong Kong has performed a central function within the historical past of China’s relations with the surface world and two specific features of that historical past are essential for an understanding of the problems surrounding the switch of the territory to China.
There’s a starkly contradictory character to opinions about the way forward for Hong Kong after 1997. Enterprise folks and economists, taking a look at Hong Kong’s persevering with integration right into a booming Chinese language financial system and all of the indicators that Beijing won’t tamper with the territory’s market financial system, are optimistic about future progress and prosperity. On the political entrance, nonetheless, there are few people who find themselves sanguine concerning the prospects for preserving the identical requirements on freedom of speech, rule of legislation and normal respect for human rights that Hong Kong loved beneath British rule. Given current Chinese language strikes, many individuals are additionally pessimistic concerning the possibilities of sustaining the restricted democratisation which was launched by the British Authorities in its closing years of authority. Even main enterprise folks, who converse confidently concerning the future as long as Beijing’s floor guidelines are noticed, are mentioned to maintain their overseas passports shut at hand. The June opinion ballot discovered that 92 per cent of respondents thought that corruption would adversely have an effect on Hong Kong’s financial efficiency after the handover.(44)
The strongest argument in favour of a profitable financial and political transition is that it’s within the pursuits of the Chinese language Authorities for Hong Kong to stay affluent and politically steady. Hong Kong remains to be crucial for the Chinese language financial system and demonstrated success within the Hong Kong instance is essential for China’s plans to impact an eventual reunification with Taiwan and Macau. China can also be conscious that the eyes of regional nations reminiscent of Japan, the US and the worldwide group as an entire will likely be centered intently on the brand new Hong Kong SAR after July 1997. The provisions within the Primary Legislation which assure Hong Kong’s separate id beneath the ‘one nation, two programs’ components point out that the Chinese language management understands the significance of defending the territory’s establishments in sustaining its viability.
The principal supply of concern about the way forward for Hong Kong relates to not the instant prospects for the upkeep of financial progress however to the safety of political freedoms and respect for authorized establishments reminiscent of an unbiased judiciary and the rule of legislation. Such preparations are overseas to the political tradition of Beijing and are regarded in lots of quarters as harmful and subversive.
There’s clearly an consciousness inside ruling circles in China that the political distinctiveness of Hong Kong have to be recognised for symbolic causes and due to perceptions in Taiwan, the US and elsewhere. Alternatively, the concept the authorized and political establishments and tradition within the territory have been genuinely essential in underpinning Hong Kong’s financial achievements doesn’t look like universally accepted, notably given China’s current financial progress beneath an authoritarian regime. Hong Kong, nonetheless, has been separated from China for over a century and can’t be ruled as if have been simply one other Chinese language metropolis. An upsurge in unrest within the territory resulting from political repression would unsettle its picture as a safe place for funding and any main instability would see a flood of emigration and a lack of the abilities, experience and capital which is the territory’s essential useful resource. Integrating Hong Kong will likely be one of many key duties dealing with the Chinese language state because it makes an attempt to take care of the social and political results of the nation’s persevering with financial transformation and can problem the political will of the reformers who could discover the difficulty being utilized by conservative components within the Celebration and the Military to regain political ascendancy.
The approaching months and years will likely be a vital time for Hong Kong and can name for shut consideration from policy-makers within the nations of the Asia-Pacific area and past. In Australia’s case, it has vital pursuits within the Hong Kong’s viability and relations with China have gotten a more and more central a part of the nation’s overseas coverage, at each the bilateral and regional degree. Hong Kong will likely be one of many main exams for the Australian Authorities’s efforts to develop an unbiased diplomatic place in Asia, balancing calls for created by points in commerce, human rights and safety.