Letter: Hong Kong will never kowtow to oppression

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Sir: It is depressing to hear patronising views, such as those of Conor Cruise O'Brien (9 April), arguing that anyone who believes in the Joint Declaration and in the promise of 'a high degree of autonomy' is an idealistic fool. Britain and China have agreed to resume 'talks' on Hong Kong's electoral arrangements on 22 April. Britain and Hong Kong cannot afford to adopt Dr O'Brien's attitude.

Dr O'Brien insists that Hong Kong will always be wrong to argue with Peking, whatever the merits of the case. Whatever China advocates must be accepted without question, because to do otherwise will be to invite punitive action from China with catastrophic effects upon Hong Kong's prosperity. The implication is that Britain and Hong Kong should resign themselves to any conditions that China might choose to impose upon Hong Kong before or after 1997, however rebarbative those conditions might be, and however distant from the terms of the Joint Declaration.

Of course, China is Hong Kong's future sovereign. China has the power to do whatever it wants to Hong Kong. That is going to be the case however much deference, however much compliance Hong Kong shows. But that does not mean Hong Kong itself has to conspire in its own oppression. Dr O'Brien's own example of 'a protest on 2 June 1998 to mark the ninth anniversary of Tiananmen' in Hong Kong and his anticipation that such a protest 'will be a renewed massacre' surely repudiates the case for appeasement.

Dr O'Brien is naive to expect that a capitalist future is still possible, if only Hong Kong adopts an appeasing attitude. Appeasement can only eat away at the foundations on which our freedom and prosperity have been built. Our most valuable resource is our freedom to manage our own affairs. Give that up, and Hong Kong will just be another Chinese city, no different from Shenzhen or Shanghai.

Yours sincerely,


Legislative Councillor

Hong Kong

15 April