The Handover of Hong Kong

Margaret Thatcher, Harrison E. Salisbury, Philip Short, Michael Sheridan

Hong Kong was surrendered to the British for perpetuity by the Ching dynasty when Britain won the First Opium war.

Kowloon was surrendered for perpetuity and the New Territories were surrendered for 99 years when Britain won the Second Opium war.

So why did Margaret Thatcher agree to return HK, Kowloon, and the New Territories, (and not just the New Territories), to Deng Xiao Ping?

Deng Xiao Ping by Pantsov and Levine (2015) suggested that the fact that in 1997 the 99-year lease on the New Territories would expire forced the British to surrender HK as ” this region was the agricultural appendage of HK, and without it the city simply could not survive. (p 393).

This statement is not footnoted. It is also not mentioned as a ground in The Gate to China by Michael Sheridan (2021).

Margaret Thatcher herself in her memoir The Downing Street Years (1993) had stated that HK and Kowloon were dependent on the mainland for water and other supplies. So, her negotiating aim was to exchange sovereignty in exchange for the continued British administration of the entire Colony (p 259).

Three excellent books Mao by Philip Short (2016), Deng Xiao Ping by Michael Dillon (2015), and The New Emperors by Harrison E Salisbury (1993) are surprisingly silent on Mao’s and Deng’s thoughts on the strategy for the handover of HK. There is not even a brief mention of Deng’s negotiations with Margaret Thatcher.

Ultimately, the Colony was surrendered based on the One Country Two Systems formula put forward by Deng Xiao Ping.

Deng Xiao Ping edited by David Shambaugh (1995) states that Margaret Thatcher describes the concept of One Country Two Systems as an ” idea of genius” (p 153).

Michael Dillon, Alexander V. Pantsov, Steven I. Levine, David Shambaugh

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