The government’s offer to Hong Kong gives us new hope for liberty



The UK government has suggested it will offer up to 2.9 million Hong Kong residents a path to British citizenship if China imposes its proposed national security law on the Special Administrative Region. This is fantastic news.

The national security law proposes the criminalisation of any acts of secession from China, those that undermine the Chinese state, terrorism (as defined by the state), and any foreign intervention in Hong Kong. It is a dystopian move that will see the CCP strengthen its stranglehold on the city, which has stood for more than half a century as a vibrant, prosperous example of human freedom and ingenuity.

Global politics is governed by action and reaction. The CCP has, for far too long, been allowed to exploit its strong economic hand by oppressing its own citizens and expanding its global reach without consequence. Europe and North America, while extolling the virtues of liberty and justice, have offered little resistance to the transformation of a communist totalitarian state to a state capitalist one. As the global power of the Chinese state grows, western democracies have grown ever more timid in their opposition to its actions.

But this move offers a different path. It shows, for one, that defending liberty does not need to be a zero-sum game. The UK would benefit hugely from an influx of highly educated, entrepreneurial new citizens. That is the beauty of globalisation; a connected world allows for effective competition of national systems that will lead the drive towards greater freedom. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and its satellites were constantly weakened by a brain drain to the West. Individuals and families risked their lives to escape communist oppression, depriving the USSR of great minds and human resources. What the UK is proposing to offer the citizens of Hong Kong avoids the risk to life and gives them a great source of influence – the ability to vote with their feet.

Liberty and openness also breed a hugely imaginative ingenuity – they provide the means for any individual to create change. The most imaginative proposal regarding this current situation is for the construction of a new charter city off the coast of Scotland that Hong Kongers could flock to – an idea floated by the Adam Smith Institute in 1989 that, in the current situation, seems more plausible than ever. The ASI has provided the loudest voice in support of the citizens of Hong Kong as the crisis has escalated, and the government has followed their proposals in its offer – proving once again that a free, liberal democracy gives power to individuals.

42% of Brits surveyed by YouGov support the UK government’s latest proposal to aid the people of Hong Kong. Only 24% oppose it. The people of this country have always understood the value of liberty. It is ingrained in our national psyche. We are not bigots or racists, and we do not want to close off this country.

Western democracies like the UK must continue to demonstrate strong applications of the principles that govern them. This most recent offer gives hope that Britain will go further to support liberty around the world. Other democracies should follow suit. There are many imaginative ways to do this, and we should pursue them all.

Max Young is Deputy Editor of Free Market Conservatives. Follow him on Twitter @maxneoliberal