Hong Kong and Gibraltar similarities...

Carmen Gomez

What is happening in Hong Kong at present is very telling is it not? Ceded to Britain by China in 1842; this once small “strategic” territory was under British rule. Then, after 156 years it reverted to Chinese sovereignty on the first of July 1997. This action taken, I have to add, was not at all popular with its citizens who never wished to be part of Mainland China and tried their best to fight against it. 

In March 1979, Governor Murray MacLehose, raised the issue of Hong Kong with the then Chinese leader on his first official visit to China; who then stated that China would reassert sovereignty over it. In 1982 former Prime Minister Edward Heath in his capacity as Margaret Thatcher’s special envoy met the leader who reaffirmed his position. After which Margaret Thatcher herself visited China to discuss Hong Kong’s future.

In December 1984 the Sino-British joint Declaration; a treaty agreeing that all of Hong Kong would be returned to China in 1997; was signed in Beijing, after four months of talks; and ratified in 1985. In 1992 Governor Chris Patten announced proposals for the democratic reform of Hong Kong`s institutions, something which outraged China who said she had not been consulted.


When you read this, although the status of the territory in question has nothing to do with Gibraltar; yet there are certain similarities which are pertinent to both. Once we too, a small territory ceded to Britain by Spain, were held to be a strategic territory. I say this because although this is something that has always been thought to be so; as we believe it is today; yet there have been times when this has been questioned. If you recall back in 1971, the United Kingdom Government led by Edward Heath; unbeknown to us; considered the possibility of exchanging sovereignty for a 999 year lease on Gibraltar; as it was felt it had ceased to be of any military or economic value.

We too have always had to fight a hard fight to reassert our rights and aspirations, because time after time, one British Government or another has put us up against the wall and found itself having to ask us on what side of the fence we stand; and always supposedly because of pressure from Spain, or that was their excuse anyway!


The first referendum found us behind bars so to speak; under siege for sixteen long years; and the next one found us in the 21st Century; when in July 2002, the then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in a formal statement in the House of Commons, said that after 12 months of negotiation the British Government and Spain were in broad agreement on many of the principles that should underpin a lasting settlement of Spain’s sovereignty claim which included the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar. The referendum results showed once again that 99% of residents were opposed to British and Spanish plans to seek joint sovereignty.

Curiously at this time, we had Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying that Britain would retain control over the military base, but its status could change to a NATO base. On another curious note, when I came across a Gibraltar factfile: “a brief history” from 2002 published by the Telegraph newspaper; which according to them states that both Britain and Spain would not recognise such a vote! Goodness knows what other questionable information has been written about us out there by the so called the reputable British press.


In 2003 an anti subversion law sparked protests. In 2004, China ruled that its approval had to be sought for any changes to the Hong Kong`s election laws. If you recall, back in 1975, the British Foreign Office Minister Roy Hattersley stated, that any constitutional change would have to involve a Spanish dimension. I well realize here that we speak of a Communist country and not a democratic one as Spain – sorry this always gets stuck in my gullet- is supposed to be. A demonstration protesting Beijing’s `s ruling with some 200,000 people took place. Britain then accused China of interference in a manner inconsistent with self governance guarantees agreed before the hand over. We all remember only too well know what happened at Tiananmen Square.

We also know that on countless occasions, the British Government has accused Spain of wrong doing, including her reneging of the Cordoba agreement; we also know that their accusations or complaints have constantly been ignored.


Hong Kong is now in the grips of a political crisis and there have been violent demonstrations as protesters have taken to the streets to reject proposed extradition bill. Why do they not want this legislation? Because they believe that the bill would put its citizens at risk of being entrapped in China’s judicial system; with political activists also being targeted and not just suspected criminals.

Hong Kong was supposed to be guaranteed the right to retain its social legal and political system, but China’s ruling Communist party has been constantly reneging on that agreement.

I have felt a need to write about this if only to remind those out there who might still believe that Spain; a democracy which the nation raced to embrace; the people for its cultural freedoms and Politicians for the chance to enter the big boys clubs; would ever honour any commitments towards us.

They have never understood the concept, which now Sr. Borrell wishes to throw to the wind in order to show that Spain is EU material.