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Montevideo, May 25th 2019 - 21:18 UTC

Crucially different from Hong Kong

Thursday, April 11th 2013 - 15:26 UTC
Full article 69 comments

By Steve Tsang (*) - Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher fought a war with Argentina to defend the Falklands, but she negotiated with China over the future of Hong Kong. Should the apparent success of British diplomacy in securing an acceptable future of Hong Kong be a shining example for a similar solution for the Falklands?

Thatcher’s answer today would almost certainly have been a simple “no.” She preferred to let Hong Kong’s citizens choose to stay British – or not. (Ethnicity was not the deciding factor. She did not defend the Falklands because the residents are Anglo-Saxon, and she did not allow for Hong Kong’s separation because its residents are mostly ethnic Chinese.)

Thatcher fought a war to defend the Falklands, but she negotiated over the future of Hong Kong. The difference boils down to geography.

Thatcher explored the possibility of returning to China the New Territories, the lease of which was to expire in 1997, but keeping the southern tip of Kowloon peninsula and Hong Kong Island, ceded to Britain in perpetuity. She gave up this idea only after seeing the boundary between the two – which would have been completely indefensible. It is Boundary Street, just an urban road in Kowloon. When Thatcher realized that holding on to Hong Kong proper was not practicable, she used diplomacy to negotiate with China for the best deal she could get for the people of Hong Kong.

It was not a deal that people in Hong Kong particularly wanted. They accepted it because there was no choice. Sixteen years later, significant voices in Hong Kong have called for a return to British jurisdiction.

Hong Kong since 1997 has stayed prosperous and stable, but genuine democratization is not allowed. As a model, it does not appeal to the Falklanders. Since this time Britain can afford to grant a choice, the citizens should be allowed to choose their own future.

(*) Steve Tsang a professor of contemporary Chinese studies at the University of Nottingham and the director of the China Policy Institute is the author of among other books “A Modern History of Hong Kong”.”


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  • Anbar

    Just beating Raul to the punch with his copy&paste post:

    “””The Argentine government maintains Resolution 2065 represents an endorsement by the UN General Assembly of their sovereignty claim. While there was support for their position during the debates in the Special Committee on Decolonisation and in the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly, there is nothing in the text of the Resolution that directly sustains such a conclusion. There is no explicit reference to operative paragraph 6 of Resolution 1514 (see above) nor to maintaining “territorial integrity” of a divided country. Resolution 2065 merely invited the Argentine and British governments to proceed with negotiations “with a view to finding a peaceful solution”. The strongest point made by the Argentine government is that reference to the “interests of the population” implies “leaving aside the principle of self-determination” (see A/66/696, p. 7), but in the light of diplomatic practices of constructive ambiguity this is insufficient to be regarded as endorsement of the Argentine claim to sovereignty.
    The UN is willing to accept independence, integration with a neighbouring country, integration with the colonial metropolitan country or free association with another country, as outcomes from decolonisation. In each case, this has been done with the explicit approval of the people of the territory, through an election or a plebiscite. The only exception, since the establishment of the Special Committee on Decolonisation, has been the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule. “””

    Apr 11th, 2013 - 03:36 pm 0
  • Stevie

    Maggie of the Maggots was also a chemist. With the Chinese, she turned those iron balls into cotton :)

    Apr 11th, 2013 - 03:39 pm 0
  • Faz

    There was a lease on HK which expired, there is no lease on the Falkands. Britain honoured the lease. Argentina has shown itself to be very aggressive totally untrustworthy there is no possibility that Britain or the Islanders will ever trust Rgland again. No deal!

    Why become a colony of Argentina, it would ruin the economy and lead to racist suppression just like the Amerindians have suffered.

    Apr 11th, 2013 - 03:40 pm 0
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