History dictates that Britain should stand up for Hong Kong | Matt Mohan-Hickson

Sitting here in the 21st century it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea of the British Empire, let alone properly untangle the complicated legacy it left behind.

Monday, 6th July 2020, 5:35 pm
Updated Monday, 6th July 2020, 5:36 pm
HONOUR-BOUND: We owe it to the people of Hong Kong. Picture: David Young

How do you even begin to weigh up the positives of our colonial enterprise against the many sins committed by our forebears?

Perhaps this dual-think is best typified by Hong Kong.

It fell into British colonial rule following the First Opium War in the 1840s, which was a conflict started by the empire when the Qing dynasty in China decided to ban the trade of the drug opium.

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The Royal Navy rocked up and after a war, made China agree to reverse its ban on opium and also took Hong Kong as a colony.

This sort of incident is why it is so hard to process the legacy of the British Empire – it just seems ludicrous to imagine a country fighting a war in favour of selling opium when firmly entrenched in 2020.

Then in 1898 the famed 99-year lease was signed and this meant that following the evening of 30 June 1997, Hong Kong was returned to China and became a special administrative region marking the final end of the British Empire.

During the 156-year British rule it rose to become one of the world's most significant financial centres and commercial ports. Its currency is one of the most traded in the world, its residents have some of the highest life expectancy levels in the world.

Recently I discovered that in the 1980s there were discussions about moving the population of Hong Kong to Northern Ireland because of fears about the political future of residents after it reverted to Chinese rule.

You could say that this week those fears proved well-founded as the controversial Hong Kong national security law came into effect. This led to the government cementing its promise to offer nearly three million residents the right to settle in the UK if they have British national overseas status.

As the final vestige of empire it is only right we stand up for our former colonial brethren. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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