, Research Paper
The Chinese Takeover of Hong KongBy: Trevor Moore The history as to who controls Hong Kong has been debated for nearly 170 years. In the 1830s, the British sale of opium to China was creating a nation of drug addicts. Because of this, the Chinese imperial government banned all imports of opium to China. Many private British ships continued to sell opium to China and eventually conflict erupted. The Opium War (1839-1842) ended with the defeat of China and the signing of the Treaty of Nanking. The treaty gave the British the right to trade with the Chinese from five Chinese ports and ceded “in perpetuity” a small island off the southern coast of China, Hong Kong. As a result of a British victory in 1860, Kowloon Peninsula was also ceded “in perpetuity” to the British. The area known as “New Territories” was leased by China to the British for 99 years, as an outcome of the second Anglo-Chinese Convention of Peking in 1898. Hong Kong was administered as a British Crown Colony and remained so until the Japanese occupation during WWII. After Japan’s defeat in 1945, Hong Kong once again became a British colony. In 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party came to power, they proclaimed that Hong Kong was part of China stolen by the British Imperialists and that it was merely “occupied” by Great Britain. When the People’s Republic of China gained a seat in the United Nations in 1971 it protested Hong Kong and Macao being listed as colonies by the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Colonialism. The people of Hong Kong wanted to continue to remain governed by the British and not ruled by the communist of China. The 1997 expiration date of the New Territories lease was approaching and something had to be done to ensure their way of life. Fear of business investments in the New Territories increased as 1997 drew closer. By 1980 the British colonial government felt it had to do something to protect its investors. The British pressed for an agreement with the Chinese on the future of the colony and the rights of its people. China and Great Britain came to an agreement in September 1984 to return all three parts of Hong Kong to the P.R.C. on July 1, 1997. Hong Kong would become a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. To oversee the transition and to protect the people the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group and the Basic Law were created. The Basic Law was finalized in 1990 and was to serve as a “mini-constitution” for governing Hong Kong after the takeover by China in 1997. The SAR government is to be composed of local inhabitants and an elected legislature will be responsible for making the laws of the SAR. Although China’s NPC reserved the rights to approve all laws written between 1990 and 1997, Hong Kong’s judicial and legal system will remain nearly identical. Local authorities will enforce Hong Kong’s laws and instead of British troops, Chinese troops will occupy military bases in the SAR. The Joint Declaration and Basic Law permit China to rule Hong Kong but allows it to be independent in controlling its own finances, budgeting, and revenue. It also guarantees Hong Kong’s residents freedom of speech, press, publication, association assembly, procession, and demonstration. The free flow of capital and the right to form and join trade unions and to strike is also secured. Hong Kong will have the right to make agreements with other nations, partake in international organizations, and issue its own travel documents to citizens and visitors. This ensures Hong Kong’s “capitalist system and lifestyle” for the next 50 years. While in Hong Kong in October 1997, I spoke with Fiona Tang. Miss Tang is a 22-year-old clerk and a lifetime resident of Hong Kong. She said there has not been a big change since the British turned over Hong Kong to China and life is basically the same as before. “As far as political freedom, there is not much hope for progress. Economically, on the other hand, I think Hong Kong will be much better in the future than at present,” stated Fiona. Fewer jobs for the Hong Kong people are seen in the future as more companies move to China because of lower wage rates. Everyday an influx of 150 immigrants is arriving in Hong Kong and more of the local residents are leaving for a chance at new prosperity. Unemployment of these new aliens has caused crime to rise and pollution is becoming a health hazard. The tourist industry in Hong Kong (waitress, etc.) is hiring Chinese immigrants so they can pay lower wages. There is still a boarder between Hong Kong and China so many people immigrate illegally, especially children. These factors have caused a lot of friction between the Chinese and the Hong Kong
residents. All the rights to England are gone and fewer foreigners are going to Hong Kong. Miss Tang said, “China will not let Hong Kong become more powerful and Hong Kong will not let China remove the boarder between the two countries.” In the future China will rely heavily on increased trade in Hong Kong for economical advancement. Mr. S.W. Lo added more insight on the future of Hong Kong after the takeover by China. Mr. Lo is a 40 year old Port Agent in Hong Kong and has lived in Hong Kong all of his life. He said Hong Kong is still basically the same as before, the main difference is the flag. International holidays have changed from England’s Queen’s Day to the Chinese National Day and the people are now called Hong Kong Chinese. Hong Kong is the example used be the Chinese government to unite all the different parts of China. Mr. Lo is quoted as saying, “The Chinese takeover of Hong Kong is mostly a symbol, but China really wants Hong Kong for its economical benefits.” Each day China pours more money into Hong Kong so it can control the huge financial power Hong Kong possesses. Although the unemployment rate is rising by 5% per year, Hong Kong is wealthier then before. The British used to charge an annual fee of 1.5 billion dollars to keep troops in the Hong Kong area. Now there are Chinese troops and China is more interested in their symbolism than their economic gain. This money is now revenue used for new construction. “Hong Kong is the main business center in the south part of China. China really doesn’t want to change Hong Kong so they have a place to compete with Taiwan”, said Mr. Lo. A few changes can also be noticed in Hong Kong’s political system. All high-ranking officials in Hong Kong are now Chinese instead of English. In Hong Kong a person can still speak out against the government, but it is becoming much more difficult. Before groups could protest anywhere in Hong Kong, now certain areas a designated for demonstrations. In the future the political system in Hong Kong will become stricter, but the two systems of government will stay separate and the same. While studying in China and Hong Kong in October 1997 I found the two regions to be very separate in many aspects. I had a chance to compare Shanghai and Beijing, P.R.C. to Hong Kong. The city of Hong Kong was still a very wealthy city compared to the poverty found in mainland China. The people in Hong Kong were there to conduct business, but a different kind of business from the Chinese people. It seemed in China that the people wanted to take as much money from foreigners as possible, where as in Hong Kong they seen you as just one of the crowd. In Hong Kong a person felt like they could do almost anything they wanted, but in China you had to watch what you did because of the strict communist government. As of October 1997 the two systems one government type of administration was working, but I do not see this policy as being successful in the future.
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