The residents of Hong Kong have been unjustly denied their political rights since China regained control from the British in 1997. After Hong Kong’s return to the communist country’s sovereignty, political freedom has declined. Because the UK has taken no action to loosen China’s chokehold on Hong Kong, it can only be eased by the involvement of other international parties.

The “One Country, Two Systems” treaty stipulated that China would give Hong Kong ample political freedom by protecting its citizens from Chinese interference for at least 50 years, but in practice, Hong Kong has yet to see any of the political freedoms it was promised. China claims it gives Hong Kong autonomy by allowing a committee to choose their leader, but the group is comprised almost entirely of anti-democratic representatives selected by China’s president. In reality, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive (the mayor of the city) is chosen from the top down, not the bottom up. This so-called “election” process illustrates how China is tightening its grip on Hong Kong rather than loosening it.

China challenges the legitimacy of the One Country, Two Systems treaty by arguing that the agreement is now 21 years old and Britain has no governing power over Hong Kong. The UK has responded by saying, “it is [still] a legally binding treaty, registered with the UN,” but Britain has not tried taking any action as it still does not have any practical means of doing so.  

Though China is most to blame, the UN should also be held accountable. The British Foreign Office Spokesperson claims that “the UK government is committed to monitoring its implementation closely,” but is taking no concrete actions against China even though China clearly violated an international treaty. The UK reads its biannual reports of Hong Kong, and watches as the situation continues to worsen, doing nothing to help. On top of this, China has broken the One Country, Two Systems treaty multiple times: it has abducted political activists and publishers, and the former Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, has had two legislator-elects disqualified from re-running for office by the court after they were seen waving “Hong Kong is not China” flags. These blatant offenses of China’s treaty with Britain have gone unpunished, and will continue unless someone takes action.

There are few options for the people of Hong Kong to gain the freedom they desire. Because China trades with so many other countries, a trade embargo wouldn’t work. Losing the UK’s trade partnership would hardly faze them, but the UK would be immensely impacted. The most plausible course of action would be for an international party to try to negotiate with China on behalf of Hong Kong. If that fails, then the only other option would be to take Hong Kong by force; however, that could lead to a very costly and probably futile war. No progress will be made unless other countries get involved.