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  • On this episode of China Uncensored,

  • no backsies in the Hong Kong handover to China.

  • Hi, welcome to China Uncensored.

  • I'm your host Chris Chappell.

  • Well, you asked for it,

  • so here it is

  • the reason why the British gave Hong Kong

  • back to China those 20 years ago.

  • Hong Kong today is under a weird policy

  • calledOne Country, Two Systems,”

  • where even though it's part of China,

  • it's governed separately.

  • Mostly.

  • So you have freedoms in Hong Kong

  • that could land you in a labor camp

  • in the rest of China.

  • So why does the People's Republic of China

  • have these two contradictory

  • systems of government?

  • And why did Great Britain give Hong Kong

  • back to China in the first place?

  • Well, once upon a time,

  • everyone wanted stuff that was made in China.

  • Because no one made better quality stuff than China.

  • But China didn't really want

  • any of the cheap junk

  • made by other countries,

  • like say, Great Britain.

  • Which sucked for them.

  • But then, in the early 1800s,

  • the British figured out something

  • everyone wanted:

  • drugs.

  • Specifically, opium.

  • The Chinese tried to just say no to drugs

  • and threw a bunch in the water.

  • As an American,

  • I guess there's something about British goods

  • that makes people just want to throw them in the water.

  • Anyway, the Chinese destruction of opium

  • led to the First Opium War.

  • And the British won Hong Kong Island!

  • The British had so much fun,

  • a few years later,

  • they decided to have a second Opium War.

  • And the British won Kowloon!

  • Then China lost a war with Japan

  • and the British thought,

  • what the heck,

  • let's take some more land

  • as the British liked to do in those days.

  • And that's how the British Empire

  • ended up with the New Territories.

  • This time though,

  • they technically only leased the land

  • for 99 years,

  • as a concession to the Chinese.

  • 99-year leases were a standard way

  • of owning property in Great Britain,

  • so they probably assumed a 99-year lease

  • really meantsort of forever.”

  • Kind of like the way teenagers

  • borrow money from their parents.

  • Do parents really expect

  • to get that money back?

  • Little could the British have imagined

  • that a future government of China

  • would insist that the 99-year lease

  • should expire, with no option for renewal,

  • on July 1, 1997.

  • So for more than a hundred years,

  • the British built up Hong Kong's

  • industry and commerce.

  • It eventually became a major financial hub in Asia.

  • The quality of living was completely different

  • from mainland China,

  • which had been seized by Communist rule.

  • But by that point in history,

  • owning colonies overseas was getting

  • less and less fashionable.

  • According to a cache of colonial records

  • the British government declassified in 2014,

  • the Brits [were] mulling granting Hong Kong

  • self-governance in the 1950s.”

  • But the Chinese Communist Party

  • did not like the idea of a democracy

  • on their border.

  • So they sent a threatening message to Britain

  • that they wouldnot hesitate

  • to take positive action to have Hong Kong,

  • Kowloon and the New Territories liberated,”

  • from the oppression of self-governance.

  • In other words,

  • the CCP threatened to invade Hong Kong

  • if the British made it democratic.

  • But at the same time,

  • the Communist Party wanted the Brits

  • to stay and rule,

  • so China could use Hong Kong to

  • trade and contact people of other countries

  • and obtain materials.”

  • So the best thing the British could do

  • for Hong Kong at the time was

  • continue to colonize them.

  • Awkward

  • And the Communist Party was perfectly happy

  • to let the British build Hong Kong

  • into the financial hub of Asia.

  • Because ultimately,

  • the Communist Party had a plan:

  • to take back Hong Kong in 1997.

  • But wait a minute, you say.

  • It was only the New Territories that were on lease!

  • Britain would still get to keep Hong Kong Island

  • and Kowloon, right?

  • Well, here's the thing:

  • If the British had insisted

  • on keeping Hong Kong Island and Kowloon,

  • the Communist Party could just make life

  • extremely difficult for the people there.

  • Like by shutting off their water.

  • Because almost all the water comes from China

  • and the New Territories.

  • So rather than let its people die of thirst,

  • or terrible B.O.,

  • the British were forced to deal with

  • the practicality that when the lease

  • to the New Territories was up,

  • they'd have to give up Hong Kong

  • and Kowloon as well.

  • Plus they didn't want to fight

  • the People's Liberation Army.

  • But the British told the people of Hong Kong,

  • Don't worry.

  • It'll be totally fine.

  • The Chinese Communist Party will respect your freedoms.”

  • It's like when you tell your kids

  • you're going to Disneyland,

  • but really you're taking them to the dentist.

  • The dentist from Little Shop of Horrors.

  • But wait,

  • didn't many of the colonies

  • that belonged to the former British Empire

  • get to become independent?

  • Like Fiji and the Bahamas

  • and like 50 others?

  • Why was the only option for Hong Kong

  • to revert to Chinese rule?

  • Because of a very,

  • very sneaky move by the CCP.

  • In 1971,

  • the United Nations had the great idea

  • to recognize the People's Republic of China

  • and not the Republic of China in Taiwan

  • as the one true China.

  • And one of the first things

  • that the new Chinese ambassador

  • to the UN did, was to send this letter

  • to the United Nations Special Committee

  • on the Granting of Independence

  • to Colonial Countries and People.

  • Ok, I know this sounds boring,

  • but trust me,

  • it's about to get really interesting.

  • The letter said that Hong Kong and Macau

  • should not be considered colonies at all.

  • Nope, they're just part of Chinese territory

  • occupied by the British and Portuguese.

  • Nothing to see here.

  • And the select committee decided

  • that was okay with them.

  • Buried in paragraph 183

  • on page 64 of volume 1,

  • of their five-volume,

  • thousand-plus-page annual report,

  • the committee removed Hong Kong and Macau

  • from the list of non-self-governing-territories.

  • In a separate document,

  • the committee referenced China's letter

  • as the direct reason for their decision.

  • Why was this a big deal?

  • Well, later in 1972,

  • the UN adopted resolution 2908,

  • which was a resolution largely about

  • supporting decolonization.

  • Part of the resolution

  • was approving the special committee's report.

  • You know,

  • the one that was over a thousand pages long

  • that I'm sure everyone definitely read.

  • Just like you thoroughly review

  • the terms and conditions on your smartphone

  • every time they change

  • and carefully consider

  • whether to agree to them.

  • No way do you just hit accept

  • and move on with your day.

  • That would be irresponsible.

  • The resolution passed 99 to 5.

  • Basically, the Chinese ambassador to the UN

  • buried an obscure line in a long document,

  • so that when the UN members voted to support

  • the independence of colonized people worldwide,

  • Hong Kong and Macau were no longer on the list.

  • This technicality completely changed

  • the destiny of Hong Kong

  • because they no longer had the legal right

  • under the United Nations

  • to be independent.

  • So with this legal manipulation,

  • plus threats to cut off the water supply,

  • the British had no choice

  • but to hand over Hong Kong to China.

  • In 1982, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

  • visited Beijing,

  • and began negotiations over the future of Hong Kong.

  • At first, the British hoped that even if

  • they had to legally give Hong Kong back to China,

  • they could still be involved in

  • administering the territory.

  • If the Chinese wanted.

  • To which the Chinese side said,

  • Nope!”

  • They made it clear that the Communist Party's

  • sovereignty over Hong Kong

  • was the most important thing.

  • After two years of negotiations,

  • the Sino-British Joint Declaration

  • was signed in 1984,

  • establishing the handover of Hong Kong,

  • and the "One Country, Two Systems" model.

  • You know who weren't part of the negotiations?

  • The people of Hong Kong.

  • And many were justifiably upset about it.

  • To Britain's credit though,

  • before they were forced to leave Hong Kong,

  • they tried protect many of Hong Kong's freedoms.

  • The last governor of Hong Kong,

  • Chris Patten,

  • even expanded the legislative elections

  • to make them more democratic.

  • Chinese Communist Party condemned Patten for

  • that,

  • and called him a "liar,"

  • "snake,"

  • "prostitute,"

  • and "tango dancer."

  • Presumably not all at once.

  • And so in 1997,

  • the British left Hong Kong.

  • And the rest is history.

  • But for those of you worried about

  • the future of Hong Kong after our last episode

  • on what's happened in the last 20 years

  • under the Chinese Communist Party's rule,

  • don't worry!

  • It turns out,

  • we were completely wrong.

  • Hong Kong is just as great

  • as it used to be,

  • according to this news article

  • in the respected British newspaper

  • The Telegraph...

  • an article that just happened to be written

  • by China's ambassador to the United Kingdom.

  • And as we now know from this episode,

  • Chinese ambassadors are very trustworthy.

  • So what do you think of China's