values should outweigh business

originally posted on 99% campaign

When Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, Beijing gave the British government assurances that Hong Kong would retain its capitalist economy, rule of law, and Western standards of freedom. This concept of a “One Country, Two Systems” was enshrined in 1984’s Sino-British Joint Declaration.

However, Hong Kong has seen a number of erosions in its freedoms since the handover 17 years ago with the media and press increasingly feeling the need to self-censor. Most recently, China published a white paper asserting, among many things, its authorisation to revoke Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and requirement of judges to be patriotic.

Last week, Nick Clegg found himself to be the only one prepared to uphold Britain’s commitment to Hong Kong that had been made by John Major and Chris Patten, two prominent Conservatives. When China’s Premier Li Keqiang met with Prime Minister David Cameron back in June, there was no mention of China’s violation on Hong Kong’s autonomy. Indeed, China’s chequebook diplomacy has kept Cameron silent on topics such as Tibet and political prisoners in a bid to help the UK economy stay afloat.

Though businesses are vital, I would question whether China, a partner which lacks the ability to honour promises in its own territories, is the right choice of associate. Ultimately, businesses need the stability that law brings, and policymakers need accurate information and news. If China fails to uphold its previous international treaty with Britain, what does that say about any present or future trade deals?

Britain needs to safeguard its businesses and economy, however it should first protect its ideas and core values. Without this, businesses will only thrive in the short-term, without the prospect of achieving long-term stability.

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