The Way Ahead in Hong Kong

LONDON – It is not wholly true to say that the eyes of the entire world are on Hong Kong. They would be, of course, if people in mainland China were allowed to know what is happening in their country’s most successful city. But China’s government has tried to block any news about the Hong Kong democracy demonstrations from reaching the rest of the country – not exactly a sign of confidence on the part of China’s rulers in their system of authoritarian government.

Before suggesting a way forward for Hong Kong’s ham-fisted authorities, three things need to be made clear. First, it is a slur on the integrity and principles of Hong Kong’s citizens to assert, as the Chinese government’s propaganda machine does, that they are being manipulated by outside forces. What motivates Hong Kong’s tens of thousands of demonstrators is a passionate belief that they should be able to run their affairs as they were promised, choosing those who govern them in free and fair elections.

Second, others outside of Hong Kong have a legitimate interest in what happens in the city. Hong Kong is a great international center, whose freedoms and autonomy were guaranteed in a treaty registered at the United Nations. In particular, the United Kingdom, the other party to this Sino-British Joint Declaration, sought and received guarantees that the survival of Hong Kong’s autonomy and liberties would be guaranteed for 50 years.

So it is ridiculous to suggest that British ministers and parliamentarians should keep their noses out of Hong Kong’s affairs. In fact, they have a right and a moral obligation to continue to check on whether China is keeping its side of the bargain – as, to be fair, it has mostly done so far.