Preserve Democracy, or the Economy?

As members of the U.S. Senate prepare to present the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to Congress, I find myself wondering what members of U.K. Parliament have to say about the erosions of political, press, and personal freedoms in the former British colony.

The Sino-British Joint Declaration, which was negotiated and signed by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Zhiyang in 1984, stipulates that Hong Kong shall be governed under the “one country, two systems” principle, and be independent from China’s rule of law. Recent violations of Hong Kong’s political freedoms, most notably the abduction and detainment of missing booksellers by mainland agents acting outside their jurisdiction, as well as Beijing’s unprecedented interpretation of the Basic Law barring pro-independence lawmakers from taking office, should have acted as red flags for the British government. However, Parliament has remained silent over these infringements. With the exception of MPs Baroness Falkner and Catherine West, and the human rights activist-journalist Benedict Rogers, few politicians or public servants have spoken out against Beijing’s increasing interference in Hong Kong’s legislature and judiciary.

Perhaps the British government does not want to defend its former colony’s right to democratic rule (thus creating political tension) at the expense of trade deals with China. Former Governor of Hong Kong and current Oxford chancellor Chris Patten has voiced his concern that Britain is “selling its honour for trade deals with Beijing”, after all. It appears that the U.K. and U.S. are faced with a similar dilemma: fight for democracy, or fight for economic power?

Image Credit: South China Morning Post

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