Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2016, 15:08 GMT

China lauds Thatcher's 'biggest compromise'

Publisher Radio Free Asia
Publication Date 9 April 2013
Cite as Radio Free Asia, China lauds Thatcher's 'biggest compromise', 9 April 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5190dcb641.html [accessed 1 September 2016]
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2013-04-09

Chinese media, officials, and netizens marked the passing of former British prime minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher by recalling her doubts about China's rise to superpower status and lauding her decision to hand back Hong Kong to Beijing.

A woman reads about the death of ex-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in a Chinese newspaper in Shanghai, April 9, 2013.A woman reads about the death of ex-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in a Chinese newspaper in Shanghai, April 9, 2013. AFP

"We extend deep condolences over the death of Margaret Thatcher and wish to extend sympathy to her family," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing after Baroness Thatcher died of a stroke at the Ritz Hotel in London on Monday.

Hong said Thatcher, Britain's first woman prime minister, was "a prominent stateswoman who made great contributions toward the development of Sino-Britain relations, including the peaceful settlement of the Hong Kong issue."

State media on Tuesday hailed Thatcher as an "outstanding" figure who made her "biggest compromise" with the handover of Hong Kong, with front-page coverage of her death in many major Chinese and English-language newspapers.

The Global Times, a bilingual tabloid with close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said in an editorial: "The complicated political environment in which she held her role, a golden era for politicians, made her outstanding."

But the newspaper said her "iron stance" could not be replicated because of the "decline in European power" and because the "evolution of Western electoral culture makes politicians weak at solving domestic problems".

The English-language China Daily newspaper ran a full memorial page on its website, with a chronology and archive photographs of Thatcher's life.

Online comment

Thatcher, who is widely referred to in Chinese by her nickname, the Iron Lady, was the fourth most popular topic on the Twitter-like service Sina Weibo on Tuesday, with some posts retweeted more than 11,000 times, and garnering thousands of comments.

One post on Sina Weibo quoted her as saying that China would never rise to superpower status as long as all it exported were television sets, and not ideas and innovation.

"If she really said that, then it shows she was a woman of great foresight," wrote user @parisparis.

User @zhongkaixin agreed. "She hit the nail on the head; these are hard words from a loyal friend," the user wrote. "We have had a huge rise in our material wealth, but spiritually we have a lot more work to do."

"How can we talk about our national spirit and culture if we don't even have freedom of speech and freedom of the press," added user @Luzijun.

"This is definitely true," added @aichiputaodeHappyxiaojie.

Sina Weibo user @zhengqimao posted a video clip, subtitled in Chinese, of Thatcher defending her government's record in the House of Commons.

"I would like to know: When will our country be able to have a similar parliament?" the user wrote.

'Her biggest compromise'

While many lauded Thatcher's strength as a woman leader, others saw her as having been cut down to size by late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping during her visits to Beijing in 1982 and 1984, where she inked a deal handing back Hong Kong to Chinese rule under terms proposed by Deng.

London and Beijing had been discussing the future of Hong Kong far ahead of the expiration of Britain's 99-year lease on the New Territories rural area of Hong Kong in 1997.

The 1984 Joint Declaration between Britain and China kick-started the handover process, to the dismay of many in Hong Kong at the time.

In 2007, Thatcher spoke of her regret at the concession, saying that she had been unable to persuade paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to extend Britain's lease on most of the colony.

"We can say that she made her biggest compromise as prime minister in this issue," the Global Times said in an editorial.

Hong Kong political commentator Zhou Bin said Hong Kong's success was the result of British institutions and economic policies.

"The judiciary was established and corruption was eliminated," Zhou said. "These were the fruits of colonial rule by the U.K. in that era."

But he said many were disappointed at the failure of the British government to secure the option for Hong Kong people to become U.K. citizens during handover negotiations.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin Service. Additional reporting and translation by Luisetta Mudie.

Link to original story on RFA website

Copyright notice: Copyright © 2006, RFA. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.

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