Introduction: Hong Kong’s Transitions
The reversion of Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula, and the New Territories to China at midnight on 30 June 1997 is an event of major historical significance, especially for the three parties directly involved: Britain, China and Hong Kong. The Sino-British Joint Declaration of December 1984, the most important set of documents in Hong Kong’s political evolution since the signature of the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842, has paved the way for this transfer of sovereignty. From 1 July 1997 Hong Kong will no longer have the status of Britain’s last great colony, but formally it will become a Special Administrative Region (SAR) under the jurisdiction of China, with the pledge of ‘a high degree of autonomy’ for 50 years until 2047. This official policy has been popularised under the slogan ‘one country, two systems’, a policy which Margaret Thatcher, as British Prime Minister, described as an ‘ingenious idea’ and which China’s paramount leader, the now ailing Deng Xiaoping, saw as ‘a product of dialectical Marxism and historical materialism’.1
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- 1.Quoted in Robert Cottrell, The End of Hong Kong: The Secret Diplomacy of Imperial Retreat (London: John Murray, 1993), p. 174. Three separate treaties are in fact at issue in this retrocession: the Treaty of Nanjing (Nanking) signed in 1842 and ratified in 1843, ceding Hong Kong island to Britain; the Convention of Beijing (Peking) of 1860, ceding the Kowloon peninsula to Britain; and the Second Convention of Beijing (Peking) signed in 1898, leasing the New Territories to Britain for 99 years from 1 July 1898. Typically we shall refer to these different arrangements and geographical areas as ‘Hong Kong’, ‘the colony’, or ‘the territory’.Google Scholar
- 2.Figures taken from Far Eastern Economic Review, Asia 1996 Yearbook (Hong Kong: Review Publishing, 1996), p. 16. These are based on World Bank data for 1993.Google Scholar