I was wandering around on the Internet last Thursday (as I often do) when I came across the British record of Margaret Thatcher’s meeting with Deng Xiaoping as they started formal talks about the future of Hong Kong in 1982. As I wasn’t even born in 1982, this was my first time learning about this talk and the roles and stances Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping took on Hong Kong’s future status; I only knew that basically, in the 1980s, Great Britain eventually caved into China’s demands and decided to return Hong Kong to China.
I can’t help but find such documentation of certain historical events like this fascinating; reading of the adamance of both Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping at the time, I found it somewhat miraculous that the sides came to an agreement, albeit a very flawed one that Hong Kong people are currently bearing the repercussions of. After reading the British record of the events, I felt compelled (as I often do with Hong Kong-related news) to search for more to read about the handover. And here is what I read. (Note: The reason for the delay in this post is that I read up on Margaret Thatcher and Hong Kong as I was supposed to pack for a trip the next day…along with finish up some work due the next day. Procrastination at its best?)
I’ve also never read [at-one-time-secret] official government accounts of diplomatic discussions; and despite Thatcher’s failure to secure long-term British administration of Hong Kong, I can’t help but feel her initial “Iron Lady”-type obstinacy commendable:
Additional readings, published(?) by British news agencies the Independent and the Telegraph, respectively:
How Mrs Thatcher Lost Hong Kong: Ten years ago, fired up by her triumph in the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher flew to Peking for a last-ditch attempt to keep Hong Kong under British rule – only to meet her match in Deng Xiaoping. Two years later she signed the agreement handing the territory to China
As this was written in 1992, I wonder if the [British or Western] public opinion of the 1990s on the upcoming transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong was likewise bleak and pessimistic, and if Britain or the West actually cared about Hong Kong’s future political outlook (as it is quite apparent in present-day that Hong Kong has been driven almost completely off the radar). Written in narrative form, it brings the events to life in full color; I believe this is an excerpt from a book published in 1993, titled The End of Hong Kong: The Secret Diplomacy of Imperial Retreat.
And something comforting yet at the same time disheartening:
I feel a bit comforted knowing that some important non-Chinese people do indeed think of Hong Kong at times, albeit Thatcher who most certainly should as the British representative who signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration herself. But of course, the disheartening part comes into play as Thatcher, like many (myself included), regrets Hong Kong’s current situation, or at least the fact that it is indeed back in China’s power now.
And so you have it, part one* of my readings about Margaret Thatcher and the handover of Hong Kong.
*assuming I will have time to revisit the 1980s in the future when I might find myself less busy