By John Ross Source: Global Times Published: 2017-6-30
On Saturday, China celebrates a great victory - the return of Hong Kong to its rightful historical place as part of China. That victory is even greater because, as President Xi Jinping, also General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, stressed, it was Hong Kong`s peaceful return to China, a rare case in Chinese and foreign histories, where lost lands were mostly recovered by force.
To understand what that means, let`s make a comparison everyone in the West can understand. When Lincoln, generally regarded as one of the greatest US presidents, was faced with secession by the South, he waged the bloodiest war in US history to prevent it. Grant and Sherman fought that war with savage ruthlessness - Sherman openly declared "I would make this war as severe as possible, and show no symptoms of tiring till the South begs for mercy" and his actions matched his words by inventing "total war." But China secured its territorial integrity, reunification with Hong Kong, by peaceful means.
Because this is such a great victory for the Chinese people, all other people`s rights to celebrate are minor in comparison. But nevertheless, it is worth pointing out why the reunification of Hong Kong with China was also a victory for Britain.
This is because understanding the truth about Hong Kong is part of breaking the mental shackles which prevent the British people understanding their own interests. The truth about Hong Kong is part of breaking the long hypocrisy in British history.
How did Britain gain Hong Kong? Through a war to force China to import opium - Britain condemned millions to misery and death by drug addiction so British companies could make a profit. This was the hypocrisy of "Western civilization."
Britain continued to rule Hong Kong for more than 150 years; for most of that time, with a racist system of a British elite and few handpicked rich Chinese, without ever allowing an election for the governor of Hong Kong - only to suddenly discover when Hong Kong was to be returned to China, it was a "fundamental principle" that Hong Kong must elect its governor. Strange this "fundamental principle" was never carried out by Britain?
Now that Hong Kong has returned to the country from which it was stolen by force and drugs, and now does choose its chief executive by a more democratic system than Britain has ever allowed, people who carried out this undemocratic system, such the last governor Chris Patten, continue to write hypocritical articles that never explain the real history of Britain in Hong Kong.
Whatever issues exist in China or Hong Kong, it is clear from this history, the refusal to even openly acknowledge it, and the forces that drove it, that Britain has no progressive role to play in resolving them and therefore, it should stay out of them.
There is a lesson in all this. It was famously written that "A nation that enslaves another forges its own chains." This was originally said about Britain`s relations to Ireland but it equally applies to Hong Kong. Among the chains a country forges for itself by enslaving another are mental ones. Britain cannot see its own reality until it honestly sees the hypocrisy and crimes its colonialism inflicted on other countries. Discovering the truth about Britain`s past is, therefore, part of the road to Britain`s own real liberation.
In Britain`s foreign relations and history, there is a simple test to find out what to be proud of and what to be ashamed of. Numerous things from Britain are avidly voluntarily welcomed by other countries - Shakespeare, Newton, Darwin and Harry Potter! These are to be proud of. Things Britain enforced on other countries by force - the Atlantic Slave trade, the occupation of Ireland, the occupation of India, the occupation of Hong Kong - are to be ashamed of.
On Saturday, by far, the biggest party will be in China. But people in Britain also have reason to have a glass of champagne or baijiu to celebrate the anniversary of the righting of a great wrong.
The author is Senior Fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.