Fac­ing up to facts of the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion

Notes doc­u­ment was sim­ply con­fir­ma­tion, for all the world to see, that Hong Kong was to be handed over; it was never de­signed to hold sway into per­pe­tu­ity

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Is the Sino-Bri­tish Joint Dec­la­ra­tion null and void or still alive and kick­ing? That is the ques­tion but let one ex­am­ine the facts to es­tab­lish a de­fin­i­tive an­swer, fac­tu­ally and hon- es­tly.

The de­bate was sparked off on the eve of the 20th an­niver­sary of Hong Kong’s re­turn to China after the United King­dom and United States gov­ern­ments is­sued state­ments on the po­lit­i­cal con­di­tion of the city.

Let us re­mind our­selves that the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion was first and fore­most ex­actly that, no more no less, a “joint dec­la­ra­tion” with Bri­tain and China as co-sig­na­to­ries in 1984. More im­por­tantly one be­lieves that full ti­tle of the doc­u­ment will pro­vide the first clue and an­swer to the ques­tion posed for it. The doc­u­ment was for­mally known as “The Joint Dec­la­ra­tion of the Gov­ern­ment of the United King­dom of Great Bri­tain and North­ern Ire­land and the Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China on the Ques­tion of Hong Kong”. In other words, its prin­ci­ple func­tion was to con­firm that “a proper ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment of the ques­tion of Hong Kong” and since such an agree­ment has been reached, the two coun­tries“agreed to de­clare” that China would “re­sume the ex­er­cise of sovereignty over Hong Kong with ef­fect from 1 July 1997” whereas the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment would “re­store Hong Kong to the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China” on the same date.

One would ex­pect that when a joint dec­la­ra­tion was rat­i­fied, signed and the two par­ties car­ried out their re­spec­tive re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, that would be the end of it. To have the doc­u­ment with the United Na­tions was a for­mal­ity like the hun­dreds and thou­sands of other doc­u­ments and dec­la­ra­tions reg­is­tered with it. To draw a com­par­i­son, there had been nearly 60 former Bri­tish colonies, rang­ing from The au­thor is di­rec­tor of the Chi­nese in Bri­tain Fo­rum. He was the first ever Chi­nese Bri­tish ci­ti­zen to be elected mayor of the Greater Lon­don Bor­ough of Red­bridge (2009-2010) and served as a mem­ber of the city coun­cil for over 10 years. the United States in 1783 to Brunei in 1984, which had “de­clared” their in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain, ei­ther bi­lat­er­ally or uni­lat­er­ally, but none of these na­tion states would have gone through the same treat­ment of hav­ing six monthly up­dates by their colo­nial mas­ter for once, not to men­tion for 20 years.

Why the dis­crep­an­cies? Was it to pro­tect Bri­tish in­ter­ests in Hong Kong or the fact that, de­spite China be­ing a per­ma­nent mem­ber of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil of the UN for years now, Brit- ain still finds it hard to re­lin­quish her colo­nial grip in this golden and prof­itable goose?

Com­ing back to the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion, Bri­tain and China jointly de­clared in the first three para­graphs on what they have agreed upon as so­lu­tions to the out­stand­ing ques­tion of Hong Kong after 1997. There were fur­ther para­graphs which cov­ered tran­si­tion, set­ting up of the Sino-Bri­tish Joint Li­ai­son Group (which suc­cess­fully de­liv­ered its roles and was dis­banded two years after the es­tab­lish­ment of the spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion) and land lease. It also con­tained an­nexes of me­moranda by both na­tions. For China’s part, it out­lined de­tailed pol­icy ar­eas, more or less lay­ing down the foun­da­tion and frame­work ac­cord­ing to the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” prin­ci­ple and con­tents of the Ba­sic Law upon re­sump­tion of sovereignty. In com­par­i­son, Bri­tain’s me­moranda were much shorter and re­ferred to only one topic — the sta­tus of Bri­tish De­pen­dent Ter­ri­to­ries Cit­i­zens after 1997.

There was def­i­nitely no men­tion of how Bri­tain would be em­pow­ered or re­quired to mon­i­tor events, po­lit­i­cal or oth­er­wise, after re­turn­ing Hong Kong to China. Not to men­tion that it was jointly de­clared with much clar­ity that China, upon re­sump­tion of ex­er­cis­ing sovereignty over Hong Kong, will ad­min­is­ter the re­gion un­der the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” prin­ci­ple and Ba­sic Law. The use­ful func­tion of the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion, in other words, was to en­sure that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity was in­formed that through the process of dis­cus­sion, agree­ment and dec­la­ra­tion, the “ques­tion of Hong Kong” had been suc­cess­fully re­solved. De­ploy­ing a doc­u­ment 30 years after its joint dec­la­ra­tion would be con­sid­ered not only by China but by any other na­tion as a di­rect in­fringe­ment of its sov­er­eign rights and is an is­sue which ought to be raised through diplo­matic means at the high­est level.

The use­ful func­tion of the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion, in other words, was to en­sure that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity was in­formed that through the process of dis­cus­sion, agree­ment and dec­la­ra­tion, the ‘ques­tion of Hong Kong’ had been suc­cess­fully re­solved.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.