Hong Kong and the Huguenots


Ben Jones

Ben JonesAs the lengthy shadow of China’s Countrywide Safety Law fell more than Hong Kong in June 2020 the ‘one region, two systems’ appeared to be useless in the water. First formulated by Deng Xiaoping in his negotiations with Margaret Thatcher’s government in the guide up to the December 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, this pragmatic principle underpinned the Hong Kong Fundamental Legislation. It confirmed that the former British colony would be authorized to love the workout of its frequent law lawful program and legislative preparations, human rights and democratic expression as a Special Administrative Location (SAR) for 50 decades right after the official handover of the territory on 1 July 1997.

The imposition of the National Protection Legislation represented a watershed for China’s put in the entire world. It place an end to Hong Kong’s particular trade and tariff position with the US, undermined the potential of 1,300 US corporations with operations and workplaces in Hong Kong and lifted fears for quite a few global organizations. For a assortment of factors both equally the US and Europe are now ‘re-shoring’ their producing or going it to destinations like Vietnam and Indonesia, at the exact same time as the US Federal Reserve is getting back Chinese-owned Treasury bonds. And, when China might have reached traditionally unparalleled degrees of economic development following 1979, it is just about to enter a interval of historically unparalleled population decrease. China’s ‘one child’ plan ensured that it would at some point confront an economic coach wreck. The place has not long ago moved into a stage in which the performing age inhabitants is declining and the ageing populace is speedily rising. Chinese women of all ages are bearing an ordinary of 1.3 little ones (Beijing believes it wants that to be at minimum 1.8 to retain appropriate concentrations of growth), on a par with nations around the world with major falling populations, like Japan or Italy, which have a a lot bigger amount of development. China’s official figures advise just one 3rd of the population will be elderly and in will need of assistance by 2050.


How does Hong Kong fit into this photo? A single of the island-city’s important assets is its educated, innovative and financially savvy population. Britain, as the former colonial ability, has granted 350,000 Hong Kongers, who have been born right before the 1997 handover, British Countrywide Abroad (BNO) passports. These give holders the rights to automatic 6-month visitor visas. An estimated 3 million additional Hong Kong citizens and their dependents, or just below 50 percent Hong Kong’s existing 7.5 million individuals, could implement for this sort of passports. The United kingdom authorities has announced that these will carry considerably enlarged legal rights, particularly leave to keep on being and perform in the Uk for up to five several years with the proper to use for citizenship at the conclude of that time period (immediately after a additional 12 month settled position time period), meaning that there is now a 6-12 months pathway to complete United kingdom citizenship.

This changes the image for BNO passport holders in Hong Kong. In the 1st two months of the plan the Uk Household Office gained 34,200 BNO visa apps, of which 7,200 have been granted. It is estimated that by 2025 concerning 300,000 and a million Hong Kongers will move to the Uk, bringing with them $74 billion in funds assets. An exodus has presently started. In February 2022 71,000 foreigners are reported to have remaining Hong Kong, presumably motivated not only by the breakdown of the ‘one nation, two systems’ settlement, but also by the its demanding Covid insurance policies.


Fifty percent a century ago Britain’s choice to admit 27,000 Ugandan Asians by way of its Uganda Resettlement Board, pursuing President Idi Amin’s 1972 expulsion of three quarters of the 80,000-powerful Ugandan Asian local community, also brought the Uk considerable added benefits. Refugees from that interval and their small children have gone on to make their mark on British community daily life. Just one thinks below of the latest Dwelling Secretary, Priti Patel, the journalist-creator, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, the current Chair of Prudential Plc, Baroness Vadera and – even though not of Asian descent but nevertheless a political refugee – the former Archbishop of York John Sentamu.

Seeking however additional back again there is an even additional fascinating historical precedent that retains a mirror to latest occasions in Hong Kong. In the late 17th century a bold and pragmatic experiment, equivalent to Deng Xiaoping’s ‘one nation, two systems’, was introduced to an finish by an absolutist state just throughout the English Channel. This event, which took location in Oct 1685, was the Revocation of the 1598 Edict of Nantes. The Edict had assured for approximately a century the political legal rights and religious liberties of the 800,000 French Calvinists (approximately 5 for each cent of France’s population), recognised as Huguenots. It experienced been initiated by a single of France’s biggest monarchs, Henry IV of Navarre, a Protestant who had transformed to Catholicism in order to unify France.

‘Whose realm, his religion’

King Henry’s ‘one region, two systems’ initiative with regard to France’s Protestant and Catholic communities was groundbreaking. Because the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 the rulers of the German states experienced agreed to take the basic principle ‘cuius regio, eius religio’ (‘whose realm, his religion’). This intended that the inhabitants of a given state ended up essential to follow the religion of the ruler of that condition, which therefore turned the point out faith. Those who could not conform to their prince’s religion were being authorized to leave with their possessions and look for refuge in a state a lot more congenial to their spiritual beliefs.

Henry’s Edict of Nantes correctly ended the Wars of Religion by guaranteeing the actual physical protection of French Protestants by way of the designation of navy strongholds (sites de sûreté Protestantes) secured by Protestant garrisons –Montauban, Nîmes, La Rochelle and Saumur – in addition to some 150 unexpected emergency forts (position de refuge), occasionally just fortified manor homes, managed at the Huguenots’ own price. The Edict also ensured that, when French Protestants travelled abroad, they would be confirmed defense from the Inquisition, a ensure which Pope Clement VIII strongly protested: ‘This crucifies me!’ have been his supposed terms.

In the context of late 16th- and early 17th-century Europe, these ended up daring actions in fact and they achieved with fierce resistance from tough line Catholics. Henry IV survived 14 tries on his lifetime prior to at some point succumbing to an assassin’s dagger in 1610. Immediately after his demise, the late king was celebrated in French popular literature in the tune ‘Vive le Roi Henri’ (later on the anthem for the French monarchy) and in Voltaire’s Henriade (1723), an epic poem prepared to honour his daily life by a person of the greatest Enlightenment philosophers of the age. Henry was also 1 of only two French monarchs (the other was Louis IX, the saintly 13th-century ruler) whose body was treated with regard when the French Revolutionaries desecrated the tombs of the French kings in the Basilica of Saint-Denis in northern Paris in 1793.

When the ‘Sun King’, Louis XIV, abrogated Henry IV’s Edict in the identify of spiritual uniformity in 1685, he resorted to army power – the so-called dragonnades, or compelled billeting of cavalrymen (dragoons) on Huguenot homes – to pressure the Protestant communities into both changing to Catholicism or heading into exile: a product we see echoed these days in Xinjiang, exactly where community households are compelled to host Communist party cadres.

Brain drain

An approximated 200,000 migrants – about a quarter of the pre-1685 Huguenot population of France – ended up forced into exile. Some 60,000 of these finished up in Fantastic Britain (50,000 in England, 10,000 in Ireland), wherever their techniques in silk-weaving (the origin of the Spitalfields silk business in London), banking, commerce, textile manufacture, the guide trade, the arts, educating, military services services and the stage were in significant desire. A further more 60,000 settled in the Netherlands, in which their talents have been likewise appreciated. In truth, 400 French Huguenot family members with know-how of viticulture ended up sent by the Dutch East India Firm to South Africa to establish the area wine industry. The Indonesian freedom fighter and holy war chief Prince Diponegoro would afterwards develop into a direct beneficiary of this expertise, when fantastic Cape wines, like his favorite dessert wine from the Constantia winery in the Western Cape, started to be exported to Java in the late 18th century.

In 50 years of their arrival the Huguenots experienced turn out to be practically entirely assimilated into the British population and their existence was actively supported just after the landing of the Protestant Dutch king, William of Orange, in England in 1688 and for the duration of the succession of wars and ideological conflict with Catholic France that followed.

Britain’s acquire

France’s decline was Britain’s attain. The arrival of hugely expert migrants who contributed instantly to the creating of Britain’s industrial and industrial economic system in the 18th century helped the island country to develop into, for a time period, the world’s primary international trading electrical power.

Of study course, early 21st-century Hong Kong is not like 17th-century France and Hong Kongers are diverse from the Huguenots. But there are intriguing parallels that may help us to have an understanding of today’s circumstance.

Peter Carey is Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College, Oxford and adjunct professor in Humanities at the College of Indonesia, Jakarta. Norman Ricklefs is an adjunct fellow at Macquarie College.


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