The UK gained control over Hong Kong by winning the Opium Wars; a short -maybe over simplistic- description of this history chapter? When in the 19th century the risk of causing an opioids epidemic in several Asian countries clashed against commercial interests, war settled things in favour of the latter.
In light of how this all started, I entertained myself with the idea that the UK may have planned a decades spanning Trojan Horse exercise against China.
It’s admittedly a far fetched hypothesis but -planned or not- Hong Kong may end up becoming exactly that, let me explain!
When in 1997 -after 156 years of British administration- Hong Kong was handed back to China, the two countries signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
That document established the constitutional principle of “One Country, Two Systems”, a principle that is becoming more widely known in our days.
Thanks to it, Hong Kong can enjoy an unparalleled degree of independence compared with any other Chinese territory.
In 2019 China tried to push a bill to allow extradition of criminals from Hong Kong, de facto threatening that independence.
This sparkled a number of protests, initially remindful of the “Umbrella Revolution” of 2014, but it soon became obvious that things were going to get even more serious this time.
Mass protests like this, are not just uncommon in mainland China: to see something similar we need to go back to 1989, in Tianamen Square, Beijin: 30 years ago, no less.
We know how it ended.
Hong Kongers are very aware of their privileged position compared with their mainland Chinese cousins, and -as vastly demonstrated- they are also very ready to fight to maintain that privilege.
This all begs the question of how the cousins perceive the current situation and privilege, the point being: if they came to share the same views, the Chinese government would be in a rather uncomfortable position while 1.3 billion people began watching up to Hong Kong as a lead to follow.
The metaphor of a British Trojan Horse couldn’t be more literal: a rich piece of land left just by the Chinese doorsteps… stuffed with hidden not-so-metaphorical explosive material timed to ignite exactly when most required.
If that was in fact planned, it would be the work of a reckless genius: a clockwork aimed to obliterate the possibility -remote possibility in 1997- that China would one day rise to become a global superpower.
It could be countered that the genius didn’t work out the math too well tho: the possibility of a revolution seems completely unrealistic in today’s China, where economy has been growing strong for decades and living conditions keep getting better and better for a large part of the population.
I would definitely agree with that: 1.3 billion people won’t rebel one day to another simply because they were shown the importance of freedom of speech, especially given they didn’t have it in generations -if ever.
The western world is quickly turning towards a less global approach to commerce: think of Trump’s trade war, or -really- any populist idea you heard in the last decade or so.
If the west was to diminish import of Chinese goods, the chinese growth would steeply slow down, and the conditions of the population would follow suit.
In a world where that was to happen, tipping the scale and see millions of Chinese people joining Hong Kong’s protests wouldn’t seem that far fetched after all.