Matt Hefler Presents: On This Day December 19, 1984

On this day (December 19th) in 1984: British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signs historic Sino-British Joint Declaration with Chinese Premier  Zhao Ziyang. The agreement outlined the manner in which Britain would hand over control of the island of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. See full treaty along with others as recorded by the UN here.

Following the deadly crackdown known as the “Tiananmen Square massacre”, Sino-British relations grew strained. The British government took a number of actions designed to protect Hong Kong, including granting 50,000 British passports to Hong Kong residents. Nevertheless control was transferred in 1997.

Hong Kong is again in the headlines after months of protests by democratic activists. The Chinese Communist Party has instituted a number of measures to consolidate its control over the former British colony. A controversial new security law targets what Beijing considers “subversion” or “collusion with foreign forces” and is raising serious concerns amongst human rights observers.

The UK government declared the new law to be a “’clear and serious’ violation” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984. In response, the Government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson extended the rights open to visit or remain in Britain to nearly three million residents of Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the Chinese Government declared that the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 was “a historical document that no longer had any practical significance.”