Hong Kong’s short history with Democracy—the facts will not set you free

It’s arguable that the history of democracy in Hong Kong is so short, it never existed.

China never willingly leased Hong Kong to the British Empire in 1842. Instead, China lost Hong Kong during the Opium Wars, and later leased adjacent terrorists to the British under duress when, in 1860, at the end of the Second Opium War, the UK gained a perpetual lease over the Kowloon Peninsula, which is the mainland Chinese area just across the strait from Hong Kong Island. This agreement was part of the Convention of Beijing that ended that conflict

In 1898, the British and Chinese governments signed the Second Convention of Peking, which included a 99-year lease agreement for the islands surrounding Hong Kong, called the “New Territories.”

On December 19, 1984, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, in which Britain agreed to return not only the New Territories but also Kowloon and Hong Kong itself when the lease term expired on July 1, 1997. China promised to implement a “One Country, Two Systems” regime, under which for fifty years Hong Kong citizens could continue to practice capitalism and political freedoms forbidden on the mainland.

However, for almost all of its history under British rule, executive power in Hong Kong has been concentrated in the hands of the colony governor, a position appointed by the British crown without any democratic input from Hong Kong citizens. The introduction of elected representatives determined by local elections, even limited to the role of “advisory councils,” did not begin until after the 1984 agreements by the British to hand Hong Kong over to China.

In conclusion, democracy in Hong Kong did not exist under British rule, but the British felt it would be acceptable once Hong Kong was returned to China.

But that history hasn’t stopped media critics in the United States from bashing China for the recent student-led unrest in Hong Kong that has been dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution”.

Now, I want to return to the title of this post. It should have said: “The non-existent History of Democracy in Hong Kong”, because Hong Kong has never been a democracy.

Is it possible that the so-called Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong is a deliberate diversion from another truth?

Critics in the United States should be aware of the long history of America’s support for brutal dictators and authoritarian governments, before claiming that the United States supports democracy anywhere.

The previous video is a bit out of date but it still supports the idea that we should never accept what anyone says or claims.  Instead, we should pay attention to what they have done and what they are still doing, and the United States has the biggest private-sector weapons industry in the world.

In addition, Global Issues reports: “Heavy militarization of a region increases the risk of oppression on local people. Consequently reactions and uprisings from those oppressed may also be violent. The Middle East is a current example, while Latin America is an example from previous decades, where in both cases, democracies or popular regimes have (or had) been overthrown with foreign assistance, and replaced with corrupt dictators or monarchs. Oppression (often violent) and authoritarianism rule has resulted. Sometimes this also itself results in terrorist reactions that lash out at other innocent people.”


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.


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5 Responses to Hong Kong’s short history with Democracy—the facts will not set you free

  1. merlin2010 says:

    Technically, I think what the people are fighting for is not “democracy”, but in order to keep their “british”, capitalist lifestyle going strong. They fear what may happen if China steps in. How things may change and HK may become just another “Shanghai”.

    As for myself, as a westerner I look at the visa side of things. If China takes over, that would mean I would need to make visa trips somewhere else to get a visa to China, and to get a work visa would require flying back home. Schools and companies already fork out enough money to westerners, and, as much as a change needs to happen because of the rising inflation and costs, it will not. My point is only an idiot would spend nearly 2,000 dollars twice (First flight to China to interview for the school and make sure it’s legit while collecting their paperwork and the health check then return USA. Second flight will be after acquiring said work visa which costs the same as a tourist visa out of our own pockets.) In total people could look at spending nearly 4500 usd to get all the paperwork done just to work. It’s not worth it.

    Now to my argument on democracy. From what I understand, democracy is not easily won through a simple “peaceful” sit-in. Our own democracy in the US took years and a war with the strongest nation on earth at the time. The students are trying to compare their struggle to that of Gandhi. While on the subject of Gandhi, let me compare some facts. India at the time was an inferior nation to the UK. The Indians were generally treated as our Blacks of the 50-60s. Gandhi wanted change, so he performed a non-violent sit in. He refused aid. He refused food. The british beat him many times, but he would always turn the other cheek. He never ran. Compare that to what is happening in HK. The students have free water and snacks provided to them which they take freely. China doesn’t treat HK with disrespect, but rather holds HK up as a major trade/financial hub of Asia. The students are non-violent, but that doesn’t mean they sit quietly in the middle of the road as Gandhi once did. Gandhi never placed barricades around himself. When the police take action, the students run like headless chickens and scream they were abused by the officers. Gandhi never did that. He was mentally at peace to the point that the british could have set him on fire and he wouldn’t have expressed pain. In fact, the protest in HK feels more like a modern day political protest. Their biggest drawback is they cannot control the people or persuade them. I assume that’s the reason why there are groups located in Admiralty, Causeway Bay, and Mong Kok. Also, people generally attend in the evenings AFTER work, school, and dinner. Nobody sticks around to spend the night, and when they do stick around they end up sleeping like hobos right in front of the police barricades. To call it a protest, I almost feel the urge to laugh. I’m curious to know the thoughts of the police. IF they really wanted to end this, they’d use tactics to wear down the protesters, then strike at an opportune moment such as when everyone sleeps right in front of them.

    • A family member in China who works in the financial sector [and earned a six-figure income] in Shanghai says her corporate colleagues in HK are worried the protests will hurt business. As it is, the protests are making it difficult for workers to get to work and this seems to worry most HK residents more than what these “students” are protesting.

      And I don’t think China wants to take away capitalism from HK, because it would end up hurting China’s economy. but Beijing might want to put in place some over sight to make sure the financial industry in HK doesn’t cause an economic crash like the one we saw in the U.S. in 2007=08 after the feds did away with the laws that were put in place to control the financial sector from taking the same risks than caused the Great Depression.

      Of course, capitalists would hate that because even during great financial collapses, the 0.01% at the top of the capitalist heap seem to always come out with more wealth at the end regardless of how many jobs are lost and middle class workers end up in poverty.

  2. a timely reminder of what the origins of hongkong was… as a trading post for the west to trade with a reclusive oldtime china. it serves as a middle man for the two to trade with each other.
    now that china have other ports , notably shanghai and do not rely on hongkong that much;if hongkong insists on being autonomous , and flouting the chinese authorities; it is easy for china to kill it by diverting trade away. the young people in hongkong do not realise this, to them everything is black or white, democracy good, authoritanism bad…

    • True. Once China allowed a form of capitalism into the mainland, HK’s roll was doomed, and I agree that the students who are protesting in HK are reacting more out of emotion than reason. I think they are being played—-fooled—-by someone out of sight at a long distance, who is pulling their strings and these idealistic college students are too foolish to realize they are being used to achieve someone else’s agenda—-probably a member of the top 0.01% of capitalists in the U.S. or UK. Possibly one of America’s billionaires who is 70 or older who grew up during the era of McCarthy and the Communist witch hunts and he still thinks that Communism is a danger to the world. Maybe even one or more of the Walton family, the wealthiest family in the world.

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