It's a complex set of questions with an equally complex set of answers. To make a long story short, key events since 1997 would include the abuse of the power to interpret the basic law that was vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Since 1997 on only one occasion has that power been exercised at the request of a Hong Kong court. That should have been cause for alarm back in 1999 when the first interpretation was issued. It should have been cause for much more alarm in 2016 when it was used to pre-empt the decision of a Hong Kong court regarding the disqualification of legislatures. Yet not very much has been said on the occasion of each interpretation and that has, in part, led us to where we are now.
Other events would include, of course, the 2003 demonstrations, but also the Beijing government's subsequent reactions. I referred in that Just Security article to something that was written in the party journal Study Times by a liaison official in 2008 referring to a “second governance team”. That warning was not taken seriously at the time. As it turns out, having not been called out on it, the liaison office has taken whatever opportunities it had to broaden its role. In that sense, I would say there have been numerous warning signs, some of which I refer to there.
The responses from the international community on the whole have not been terribly helpful. I don't think that any particular country has covered itself in glory. The U.K. in particular, as the other signatory to the joint declaration, has done what the last governor, Governor Patten, referred to as the equivalent of writing reports that said “rien” when the Bastille was stormed.
So what do we do now? I think it is incumbent upon the international community to say enough is enough. Any healthy relationship involves the setting of clear boundaries and I think the time to do that with the PRC is long overdue.