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Published on Oct 24, 2014
When the UK handed over control of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China in 1997, it left behind a legacy of free markets, democracy and the rule of law. It was felt that these principles could challenge the Communist one-party state of China, so the ‘one country, two systems’ mantra was established. This settlement allowed for Hong Kong to have a large degree of autonomy for 50 years as provided for by the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 and the so-called Basic Law. While these negotiations did not initially secure the right of universal suffrage, there is a reference to an ultimate aim of universal suffrage within the Basic Law. Over the past two decades, we have seen a growing desire in Hong Kong to achieve that creditable aim, and we are now seeing a demand, in particular, for 2017 to be the year when that change finally comes about.
I strongly believe that the European Union should now be standing firm in support of Hong Kong on this issue, provided the protests are being held in a peaceful manner and within the law. China has opened up to the world, become – to its credit – more integrated into international bodies and institutions and embraced many elements of free market capitalism since 1997. We in Europe must encourage authoritarian China to understand that allowing Hong Kong to flourish democratically, as it wishes, is an opportunity for the PRC to express itself in confidence, and not a chance to repress by parading its insecurities, as sadly we saw a couple of decades ago in Tiananmen Square.