Looking back to 1985: One Country Two Systems

Monument celebrating return of Hong Kong Credit: IamCristYe CC

In 1842, Hong Kong Island was ceded in perpetuity to Britain by China as part of the Treaty of Nanking following the First Opium War.

Then in 1898, the so called New Territories on the Chinese mainland were granted to Britain but only on a 99-year lease.

It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but with the rise of the Communist State in China and a general worldwide call for decolonialisation, as the years ticked down, so China demanded the return whilst the British Government was faced with a major dilemma.

How could it return just the New Territories and keep Hong Kong Island and what would happen to those living in the New Territories as opposed to those on the Island?

Margaret Thatcher was nothing if not a realist and knew that with the main airport having to be handed back and several million Hong Kong Residents who would want to move to the Island when the New Territories were back, the concept of keeping the Island was untenable.

On June 12, 1985, the British and Chinese Governments registered at an agreement at the United Nations whereby the whole of the Hong Kong area administered by Britain would be returned to China in 1997.

There was no way that Hong Kong Island could cope with housing those born and living in the New Territories and Britain was not prepared to grant UK passport rights to those born in Hong Kong (unless they had rights of abode through their parents or other family members).

If Britain didn’t hand back the New Territories, then China would almost certainly invade and the same would be very likely if Hong Kong Island was granted independence, so with little involvement of the people of Hong Kong, the deal was done.

Once it happened and the Hong Kong population ceased to be a potential problem, it then allowed the British Government to improve the rights of abode to residents of Overseas Territories such as the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar.

The idea was that China would be one country but with the incorporation of Hong Kong as the SAR (Special Administrative Region) there would be two systems and although Britain likes to pretend it still has some overview in the way in which the people of Hong Kong are treated, the reality as the Chinese Foreign Office stated several years ago, it is “ridiculous for the UK to pose itself as a supervisor… on Hong Kong affairs.”

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Written by

John Smith

Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica. Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene. Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development. Share your story with us by emailing newsdesk@euroweeklynews.com, by calling +34 951 38 61 61 or by messaging our Facebook page www.facebook.com/EuroWeeklyNews