What is the 1997 Agreement Between Britain and China?
In July 1997, Britain and China signed an accord granting Hong Kong relative autonomy for at least 50 years. It was the culmination of more than a century of competition between London and Beijing over the city. Britain had technically leased much of modern-day Hong Kong since 1898, with a presence there going back much further.
But China continued to see Hong Kong as part of its territory. The 1997 agreement was intended to occupy the middle ground between two competing visions for the former colony. The semiautonomous territory continued to flourish as a global financial center while running many of its own affairs, despite China’s control over its defense and foreign relations.
Hong Kong still managed to forge its own relations with the United States and other countries. But since Xi Jinping took over leadership of China’s ruling Communist Party in 2012, he has repeatedly meddled with Hong Kong’s special status.