5 - Negotiations: Sino-British diplomacy, 1982–92  pp. 104-126

Negotiations: Sino-British diplomacy, 1982–92

By Roger Buckley

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In reply to [American] questions as to how long Hong Kong would continue as a British Colony, I would say that, in my opinion, 1997 will be the fateful year, for in that year the lease of the New Territories runs out, and I could not conceive of any Chinese government of whatever complexion renewing the lease. (Sir Alexander Grantham, Via Ports, Hong Kong, 1965)

You might still remember it was the signing of the Joint Declaration in 1984 that brought about the best period in Sino–British relations, during which your Queen visited China. That was an historic visit; that situation, of course, lasted until 1992 when our relationship suffered some setbacks. Of course, that happened not because of anything of China's making, but what is more important now is to look ahead. (Ambassador Ma Yuzhen, annual dinner of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, London, 14 March 1995)

The importance attached by successive British governments to maintaining cordial relations between Hong Kong and China cannot be overstated. Given the near impossibility of defending Hong Kong from external attack during most of its colonial history, those administering the territory invariably have wished to demonstrate the advantages that would accrue to both parties from close economic, financial and human ties. It was hardly a state secret that the British government had little in its locker to throw at the PRC if, to employ the familiar phrase, Beijing should decide to roll its tanks down Nathan Road, the main thoroughfare of Kowloon.