Hong Kong Agreement 1997


December 9, 2020

The persistent sense of historical injustice, which is part of China`s official position on Hong Kong, helps explain the persistent disagreements and misunderstandings that have marked the Sino-British negotiations on the territory in recent years. Many Chinese officials have long been unhappy with British intentions, particularly the fear that the British might leave Hong Kong when they leave their wealth or that they will use the territory to undermine the People`s Republic and its values. These underc currents became particularly evident when, in 1992, the last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, initiated reforms to introduce a degree of popular representation into the colony`s government institutions. For the Chinese authorities, these amendments were, at best, a violation of previous agreements between the two sides to allow a smooth transition to Chinese domination, or, at worst, an attempt to bring subversive elements into Chinese politics after 1997. The Chinese government`s determination not to authorize reforms after 1997 reflects the fact that it does not feel obliged to abide by unacceptable political agreements made by illegitimate foreign occupiers on Chinese soil. The surrender marked the end of British rule in Hong Kong, the last major overseas territory of the United Kingdom. Although British Hong Kong did not, in the law passed by Parliament, have the status of pre-eminence over other British dependent territories (as they were then classified before the introduction of the term British Overseas Territory in 2002), Hong Kong was by far the most populous and economically strongest. In 1997, the colony had about 6.5 million inhabitants, which represented about 97% of the total population of the UK`s dependent regions at that time (the nearest, Bermuda, with a population of only 62,000 in 1997). With a gross domestic product of about $180 billion in the last year of British rule,[145] Hong Kong`s economy was about 11% the size of the British economy. [146] Although the economies of the United Kingdom and Hong Kong were measured separately, the transfer meant that the broader British economy was considerably smaller (in comparison, the Acquisition of Hong Kong increased the size of the Chinese economy by 18.4%, which was then smaller than that of the United Kingdom. [147] In 2017, Bermuda (as for the population, the largest of the remaining British regions economically) had a GDP of only $4.7 billion. [148] While it appears that maintaining a separate economic relationship with the SarDS in Hong Kong will not pose problems for Australia`s relations with China, there is potential for controversy on political and human rights issues, which may well arise after 1997. This has already been highlighted in the question of China`s creation of an interim legislative council and Australia`s participation in the opening ceremony on 1 July 1997.

The British government criticized China`s approach to the creation of the new Council as a violation of the joint declaration and the Basic Law, and the US State Department called it “unjustified and unnecessary.” (34) However, Australia reacted in moderation and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said it was “disappointing that China and Britain could not agree on agreements allowing the elected Legco to continue the handover period. (35) The United States and the United Kingdom also announced that they would not be formally represented at the ceremony, while the Australian government decided to participate.

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