Tag Archives: empire

Hong Kong hypocrisy and self delusion

British kill Chinese

Jeremy Hunt has been chiding the Chinese on issues of freedom and democracy following the June 2019 demonstrations which saw the seat of government in Hong Kong, the ‘Legco’ building, occupied.

In fact, the Chinese authorities response was very muted, and there were no broken heads amongst the protesters. Onc wonders how Hunt would respond if a group of Brexit supporters (or some other group) broke into and occupied the Palace of Westminster – one suspects there would have been a much more robust response by the British police.

However, that is merely incidental. The fact is that UK government has shown monumental gall and hypocrisy about the Chinese reaction (albeit muted) and given tacit support to the demonstrators, citing their right to seek freedoms, backed by reference to the 1997 agreement to return Hong Kong to the Chinese, and a 50 year commitment to maintain a ‘one country, two systems’ framework.

In 1840, the Chinese sought to prevent William Jardine, a UK business owner, from importing Opium and killing thousands of citizens. Jardine persuaded the then Foreign Secretary, Palmerston, to go to war to enforce Britain’s rights as a drug dealer on a continental scale. In the face of overwhelming odds, the Chinese capitulated and in 1841 Hong Kong became British under the Treaty of Nanking. In the later second Opium War – also fought to maintain drug dealing rights – Britain gained a lease to Kowloon and the New Territories which was to expire in 1997.

So check list the outcomes here. Jardine Matheson – founded by men who turned to drug dealing and war to grow their company – is now a 20bn organisation, with a board full of the great and the good. A win.

Hong Kong became a colony, with its citizens subjugated and ruled from afar by dictat; the very definition of a dictatorship. In 156 years of rule by the British, no Hong Kong citizen ever had a vote, or any means of democratic representation in the structure imposed by their masters. Big time losers in the game.

In the run up to 1997 and the handover, Britain then had the almost unbelievable shamelessness to lecture the Chinese on freedom and democracy and demanded to impose on the Chinese – regaining their own territory taken by force in acts of war – an English template for law, and at the same time sowed the seeds that the citizens should expect under their own countrymen precisely what the British had denied them for more than a century and a half.

There is an element of the old Empire which runs deep in the Civil Service, the aristocracy and certain of the ‘ruling classes’; a mix of arrogance, a sense of entitlement, and a belief in some ‘natural order’ amongst men. It is a mindset of the end of the 19th century. The reality is that certain old conquests will at some point (and quite soon) turn the tables in the global pecking order.

In his book ‘Empire’, Niall Ferguson (ISBN-13 978-0-141-00754-0) posed (and largely answered) the question as to why an archipelago of rainy islands of the coast of north west Europe came to rule 25% of the worlds population {Answer: mostly by a mixture of force of arms and greed} . However, the book is a history book, and it is now the 21st Century. With no material indigenous resources of its own (except maybe coal and intellect), perhaps Britain should look in the mirror to see what it now is, or it really will become just a small, rainy and inconsequential group of islands disconnected physically and in most other ways, from Europe and the world.