Washington International Law Journal


Black Americans need not be told that racism is not accidental, nor is it marginal in their lives. The rest of the American society does. In fact, race is a foundational consideration in the development of democracy in Anglo- American history. This article attempts to demonstrate, through colonial history of Hong Kong, how white supremacy played a central role in shaping the British colonial policy during the nineteenth century—the reign of Queen Victoria. Hong Kong was ceded to the British Empire when two ideas in Victorian England were competing to dominate its colonial policy: one was anti-slavery, and the other free trade. Anti-slavery demanded imperial control over British overseas colonies because the Empire became increasingly frustrated by the fact colonists—who were slave owners—refused to carry out abolition. For that reason, senior colonial policymakers preferred new colonies set up as “Crown Colonies,” as it accorded more control to the Crown. On the other hand, overseas colonies were increasingly considered as a financial burden to the Empire. Free-trade advocates—Adam Smith and his followers—pushed for less direct control and more autonomy in the colonies. This view led to representative democracy in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Hong Kong was established as a “Crown Colony,” but there was no lack of interest in pushing for democracy. This article is largely based on internal communications between colonial administrators in London and Hong Kong in their debates about the proper policy choice in Hong Kong. It reveals the central consideration of race in deciding the political structure for Hong Kong.