The British occupied Hong Kong in 1842 and only gave it back to China in 1997. The transfer was effected under the “one country, two systems” principle which forced China to retain British-founded institutions, and associated values, for 50 years.
In the 22 years since the transfer of power the British media have continued to report inappropriately on the Chinese region, often drawing the ire of the Chinese authorities in the process.
On occasion the British media’s negative reporting on Hong Kong was thought to be at odds with the British government policy, which has emphasised close economic cooperation with China.
But on the latest protests, which centre on an extradition treaty with mainland China, the media appears to be better co-ordinated with Whitehall. British interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs – and by extension into China’s affairs – has finally elicited a sharp rebuke from Beijing.
Last Wednesday China officially requested Britain to stop interfering into China’s internal affairs after London banned sales of crowd-control equipment to Hong Kong and called for an enquiry into recent clashes between protestors and the police.
This is a rare rebuke in the context of Sino-British ties which have been warming in recent years, particularly after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK in October 2015 where he struck up a rapport with then British prime minister David Cameron.
But Britain’s exploitation’s of the unrest in Hong Kong is likely to be interpreted by Beijing as an opportunistic move which could presage additional British interference in China’s internal affairs.
The British media’s barely concealed nostalgia for London’s 156-year rule in Hong Kong will do little to assuage Chinese fears of British intentions.