|HONG KONG: RETURNING TO THE FOLD|
January 10, 1997
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in this forum:
What will happen to religious freedom in Hong Kong after the transfer ? What will life be like in Hong Kong in the year 2000? What's the prognosis for the future of the independent media in Hong Kong? How will the recording of economic data change? Will China phase out the HK dollar and replace it with the Yuan? What will be China's attitude towards the Eurocurrency market ? Has China made any specific commitment to hold free elections to parliament after the transition? What will the U.N. do if it refuses? Viewer comments
Albert Morin of La Grande, Oregon, asks:
Do you feel that the restrictions on China found in the joint 1984 declaration between Britain and China concerning the returning of Hong Kong will be enforceable on China?
Dr. DeGolyer reponds:
Enforceable by whom? Enforcing anything on a sovereign power is difficult, and to do so against one of some 1.2 billion people, nuclear armed, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council (with veto), and one of the world's biggest and most rapidly growing economies is even more problematic. The U.N. has difficulty merely passing toothless resolutions against human rights abuses in China, and the U.S. has divorced MFN from human rights issues, having found the cost of implementing even limited sanctions against China too high (too high politically or too high economically, or both, depending on whom you read).
Britain alone cannot enforce anything against China. It tried to get China to go to the International Court in their dispute over the Provisional Legislative Council and China merely ignored it. Britain's best hope of influence lies in persuading the E.U. and the U.S. and other powers like Canada and Australia to join it in pressuring China, and Britain's own ties with the E.U. are troubled enough to weaken its ability to call in favors of its allies in that organization. (This may begin to change soon after the upcoming election in Britain which must be held by May 1997.)
Only major economic and political costs, and the loss of face, and major internal upheaval, and massive international public agitation could possibly make Chinese leaders back away from doing what they deem necessary in the case of Hong Kong if they feel it threatens their grasp on power. But even then I have doubts. All of the above applied in 1989, but the reaction to the 4 June Tiananmen Square events by the world has strengthened China's leader's conviction that they merely have to tough it out, wait, and all their troubles will eventually fade as terror and memory are overcome by trade and money.