Hong Kong Handover: China's era of humiliation nears its close

Changing Lives: Christine Loh (above), one of Hong Kong's leading democrats, says Britain should apologise for the past

At the stroke of midnight on 30 June, British sovereignty ends after 155 years and Chinese rule begins. This represents a critical symbolic moment because it touches how people feel about the past and the future.

The loss of Hong Kong in the 1840s represented the beginning of the end of imperial China. It also signified the painful start of the Middle Kingdom's modern era. Now, with the return of Hong Kong to China, perhaps it will complete a cycle of turbulent transformation for an old civilisation, dragging itself out of self-imposed isolation.

The experience of having been humbled by foreign powers last century still weighs uncomfortably on the collective Chinese psyche. Despite its grand achievements and long history, China lost confidence in itself when its efforts were so inadequate in resisting foreign aggression. Its psyche is still in agony and in need of healing.

The re-taking of Hong Kong, therefore, has great symbolic significance for China. It closes a long chapter of national shame. Britain might well wish to gloss over the same period of history when its warships and troops despoiled a weak nation.

At this significant moment, will China be in a vengeful or magnanimous mood? Will it want to publicly censure Britain's plundering past? As for Britain, might it feel that there is nothing to apologise about since everything happened a long time ago, and under British tutelage, Hong Kong has become a successful, modern, city?

I would neither wish to hear China dwell too heavily on the past about British treachery, nor hear Britain deliver an apologia about its colonial benevolence.

If Britain can bring itself to do so, its government should say sorry about the past. This could help break China's defensive armour. It would also be good if Britain can be sensitive to how Hong Kong people feel.

If China can put aside its own fear of inadequacy, its leaders should be gracious, and forward-looking. During the final hours of the transition, Chinese leaders have a very special window of time to speak about the aspirations of the Chinese people for a modern and confident China. This moment is not to be missed: it will set the tone of the China of the 21st century.

Both Britain and China have choices about how they wish to conduct themselves. Both governments can choose to beat their breasts in self-righteous manner, or they can choose to treasure a significant moment in honour of their people. I would much prefer the latter. I would like to say goodbye to the British cordially.

I would like to welcome China in the hope that with efforts on both sides, Hong Kong and China can iron out the problems inherent in the two very different societies. A display of openness and graciousness from China will do much to enhance the birth of Hong Kong as a special administrative region.

Meanness, such as excluding democrats from the incoming government's celebrations, will only show that China still lacks the self-confidence it so desires.

This is the first in an occasional series by Christine Loh, chair of the Citizens Party, on Hong Kong before and after the handover.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms