Referring to Rene Goldman’s letter (Courier, Aug. 23), I thought at the time that former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher made a serious mistake in not offering Hong Kong residents a referendum on what their preference was following the expiry of the U.K.’s lease on Hong Kong in 1997.
I suspect that she wanted to keep in Beijing’s good books with one eye on then-emerging future trade with China.
I think that she had a very good case for taking the line that the lease required Hong Kong be returned to the emperor of China (with whom the lease was originally negotiated) or his legitimate heirs.
The Beijing government could not claim to be the emperor’s legitimate heirs because they had taken power by revolution.
Therefore she could have taken the stand that there were no surviving legitimate heirs of the emperor to whom the territory could be returned.
A referendum could have had the options of becoming an independent nation, remaining as a British colony or becoming part of China.
The independent nation option would likely have necessitated the British government guaranteeing protection by maintaining a military base there for as long as the Hong Kong government wished them to do so.