After years of struggles between pro-democracy campaigners and the Hong Kong authorities, a newly introduced security bill and the crackdown on Tiananmen protests last week seem to indicate a new level of Chinese influence in the territory. Ian Ng writes that Britain needs to stand up and fight the corner of the territory it handed over 24 years ago if it truly wants to be seen as 'global'.

Hong Kong was held by the UK in one form or another from 1842 when the then Qing Dynasty signed the Nanking Treaty, to 1997. In that time, Hong Kong developed from a fishing village to one of the most developed financial centres in the world. However, from the start of handover negotiations in 1982, Hongkongers feared the erosion of their core values by China post-handover, a fear which grew further following the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. According to a survey by the Reform Club conducted at the start of handover negotiations, less than 10% of Hongkongers preferred to be ruled by China. Further, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples granted colonies the right to self-determination and ultimately, the right to be an independent country. Nevertheless, the will of the people of Hong Kong was ignored during the negotiation regarding the future of the city.

While the rich fled to foreign countries before the handover, the majority of Hongkongers were unable to leave Hong Kong, and their earlier fears were realised soon after the handover. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which had initially promised to respect the territory's right to self-rule for 50 years, soon broke that promise, leaving Hongkongers with no choice but to be ruled by the CCP. The initially promised universal suffrage has never been implemented in Hong Kong and its citizens have suffered the consequences, with police in mainland China even arresting Hongkongers for crimes they never committed.

The United Kingdom, as the former suzerain of Hong Kong and one of the governments which signed on the Sino-British joint declaration, has a responsibility to ensure the execution of the declaration. It ignored the Charter of Human Rights when it handed over Hong Kong to this totalitarian regime, now it should bear its responsibility to its former colony.

The United Kingdom has used the slogan of "Global Britain" to seek an independent voice in international diplomacy beyond the European Union. It was stated in the Global Britain integrated review that the centre of economic development and geopolitical competition is shifting to the Indo-Pacific region and the centre of Britain's diplomatic policy will shift as well.

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In the review, the Johnson Government suggested strengthening the relationship with India and joining the CPTPP as part of the policies. As such, we have seen trade deals signed with a number of Indo-Pacific countries, including Singapore, Australia and Japan. Also stated in the review was the feeling that China is shaping the region with different values from the UK and has become the biggest threat to the UK. The UK should therefore, not only strengthen its relationship with Indo-Pacific countries, but also confront the threat of China.

First, the UK should recognize the fact that CCP has violated the declaration and broken the promises made, rather than tiptoeing around the issue. This recognition is the key for foreign countries to act on Hong Kong issues. China has always stressed that Hong Kong handles its internal affairs and has cited the principle of non-intervention as the reason to prevent foreign countries from acting on Hong Kong issues. If the UK officially recognizes CCP's violation, actions to intervene can be legitimised and the CCP can be held accountable. The CCP has violated the declaration multiple times, yet the UK failed to hold the CCP accountable by any means. In fact, the UK has both exclusive duty and right to recognize the violation by the CCP as it is the only country that signed on the declaration.

Moreover, it is unrealistic to separate the political and economic aspects of China. The Western world has longed for the modernisation and economic development of China to influence its political situation since the reform and opening up in the 1970s. Now that China has become one of the biggest economic entities on earth, its political situation has not improved but instead has worsened. The UK imagined that it can on one hand condemn China for its actions in Hong Kong, and on the other hand continue its trading activities with China. The boycotts of Japanese and Korean products due to political disputes are perfect examples of how this is an unrealistic stance to maintain.

It is not just countries who have been impacted by wading into Chinese politics. H&M and Nike were boycotted in China as they issued a statement stating concern over the alleged use of Uighur forced labour in cotton production. They were then condemned by the Chinese government for spreading "fake news" and the supporters of the CCP fueled the issue with nationalism. The same logic applies to the UK. The UK must face the fact that the CCP has utilised its economic power in preventing other countries from expressing concerns over issues surrounding Hong Kong.

The BNO Visa program for Hongkongers, announced earlier this year, is not enough to satisfy the needs of Hong Kong.The majority of Hongkongers do not have the knowledge nor the capital to immigrate to a place where they have never been to. If Britain is to fulfil its 'global' vision, it must hold the CCP accountable by more hawkish means, or it risks becoming all but irrelevant in the region.

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