As mainstream Western media report on the siege of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council by protestors opposing mainland China’s extradition bill, it is worth remembering Britain’s role in quashing the protests: especially given that one protestor allegedly hung the colonial British flag on the wall of the Council building, perhaps signalling a wish to secede from the mainland.
Jeremy Hunt, the British Foreign Secretary and potential successor to PM Theresa May, said: “recent protests in Hong Kong make it even more important on the anniversary of the handover to reiterate that the UK Government’s commitment to the Sino-British Joint Declaration  is unwavering. It is a legally-binding treaty and remains as valid today as it did when it was signed and ratified over 30 years ago.” British policy towards Hong Kong is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, the protestors potentially undermine China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong by challenging the mainland’s laws. But on the other, China’s repressive policies violate the Joint treaty referred to by Hunt. The Joint declaration maintains the rights of Westernised Hong Kong citizens; not because Britain cares about human rights, of course, but because the current structures reflect British business interests.
Keeping Hong Kong open for business, in contrast to mainland China, is an important goal for the UK. The UK government’s “doing business in Hong Kong” report cites the Heritage Foundation’s Index on Economic Freedom, which ranks Hong Kong number 1. Mainland China, by contrast, is ranked 100 (“mostly unfree”). “Economic Freedom” means openness to US exploitation. The British government notes that “Hong Kong has one of the lowest tax rates and simplest tax structures in the world … Business culture in Hong Kong is quite similar to western culture.” The Foreign and Commonwealth Office wants to keep it that way.
POLICING AS A COLONIAL REMNANT
According to an official history, the Hong Kong police force was established in 1844 by the British colonial authority. A school of policing was set up in 1869. By 1920, the Royal Hong Kong Police were being trained in criminal law, musketry, and regulatory procedure. In 1956, the Double Tenth riots broke out between pro-Nationalists and pro-Communists. Colonel Secretary Edgeworth B. David brought in troops from the 7th Hussars (the queen’s armoured regiment) to help the Police quell the rioters. More than 50 people were killed.
On 1 July 1997, Britain’s 99-year lease on Hong Kong ended. The island became an administrative area of mainland China. But not all ties were cut.
In 2000, The Telegraph reported: “British police have received clear signals from mainland officials that they are welcome to stay until they retire, which in some cases could be as many as 15 years from now. There are just under 300 British officers left, all at the rank of inspector and above, making up a fifth of the senior ranks. The last was recruited in 1993. They all speak the local dialect, Cantonese.”
Costing the British taxpayer millions of pounds per annum, the UK-based College of Policing trains dozens of human rights-abusing police forces from around the world, including mainland China’s and Hong Kong’s, particularly via the so-called International Strategic Leadership Programme. The College of Policing describes the Programme as: “Drawing on a combination of key UK policing doctrine and the learning from many years of international engagement and leadership development, the programme is divided into three modules which, taken together, address all the key chief officer activities and competencies.”
In 2016, Hong Kong media reported that the British Army had been drafted to train HK police officers; allegedly only in ceremonial standards.
More recently, with brutal counter-demonstration tactics employed, it has been reported that British training and arms supplies have gone to good use.
The Times reported that two British chief superintendents, believed to be Rupert Dover and David Jordan, played a role in organising anti-demonstration policing. This motivated protestors to hold placards with the officers’ photos, reading “Shame on the HKPF [Hong Kong Police Force]” and “Blood debt.” Amnesty International reports: “Pictures shared on social media appear to show CS gas canisters fired at civilians during clashes in Hong Kong today have been produced by British defence contractor Chemring Defence, formerly known as PW Defence.”
Despite the usual pro-democracy, human rights posturing of the British government, Hong Kong, like any other country or territory, is considered by foreign policy planners only terms of its usefulness to the UK.