Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hong Kong without Britain

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hong Kong without Britain

Article excerpt

This year marks a milestone in world history: the end of the British Empire. With the December naming of Tung Chee-hwa as the first Chinese chief executive of Hong Kong, the transfer of the last major colony to China has begun its final stage. The flag will be lowered in June, 50 years after the dissolution of the empire began with the independence of India and Pakistan.

Until the appointment of Chief Executive Tung, attention focused particularly on Governor Chris Patten's efforts to increase democratic participation in the territory, despite clear Chinese opposition. Democracy in China's Hong Kong, to the extent it exists at all, will be extremely circumscribed. But even in many former colonies that became independent, the roots of democracy have been shallow. Except for the older dominions, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, only in India has democratic rule been fully realized. Many other parts of the former empire have parliaments and claim democratic intentions, but they are, in reality, dominated by powerful personalities, military officers, or parties.

Other objectives prevailed in much of the empire's history. Five often conflicting interests characterized British rule: commercial, financial, strategic, political, humanitarian. The first forays from London in the 18th century were by great trading companies, such as the East India Company, and were launched to import commodities for the home market and raw materials for the growing industry of the British Isles. Trade led to major roles for London's financial houses and the Bank of England. It also led to the development of strategic points such as Singapore and the Persian Gulf to outflank European competitors and protect the route to India. Traders soon found that they needed official protection, and British political rule soon followed, but that rule was authoritarian. Democratic rule became an objective only when the decision was made to grant independence. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.