Hannon on Hong Kong

Dan Hannon writes:

Britain’s offer of residence rights to three million Hong Kong citizens has prompted Chinese threats of retaliation. What kind of retaliation, though, would be proportionate? Might China offer spaces to three million British citizens? I can think of one or two Maoist statue-smashers here who might want to take them up.

How odd that Beijing should see Britain’s visa policy as any of its business. The United Kingdom has always recognised that it has obligations to the people of Hong Kong. The basis of the 1984 accord was, essentially, that China could get the land as long as the people living on it kept, at least until 2047, the rights they enjoyed as British subjects. China has now flagrantly violated that deal, snuffing out political freedoms in Hong Kong and making it clear that the inhabitants of that territory will be treated like Uighurs or Tibetans – that is, as renegades to be brought to heel.

Britain’s response, in the circumstances, is remarkably modest. We have not aimed diplomatic or commercial sanctions at the Chinese. We have not taken any action against them at all. All we have done is to honour our promise to Hongkongers. If they cannot enjoy freedom under Chinese sovereignty, let them come and enjoy it under British sovereignty.

A great summing up. The best way the world can stand up this repressive move by China is to allow the people of Hong Kong to leave. To make China realise the economic successes of Hong Kong only work if there is political freedom to match the economic freedom.

The arrival of several hundred thousand enterprising and industrious Hongkongers (it is vanishingly unlikely that all three million will take up the offer) will enormously boost our economy. Conversely, their departure will impoverish China, which has done very well out of having a low-tax, low-regulation, high-wage entrepôt on its doorstep, blessed with secure property rights, global trading links, common law norms and judges who don’t take bribes.

I’d love to see New Zealand offer say 5,000 places to Hong Kong citizens, once Covid-19 is over.

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