From the Treaty of Nanking to the Joint Declaration: The Struggle for Equality through State Documents
This article examines two state documents that signpost the colonial history of Hong Kong: the Treaty of Nanking (1842) ushered in the era of British control while the Sino-British Joint Declaration (1984) spelled the end of British colonial rule and inaugurated the handover process that concluded in 1997. Exploring these documents beyond a textual analysis of their content, this article extends the investigation to include the materiality of the original documents the two states exchanged. Signed 142 years apart, these documents showcase not only the two governments’ agreement over Hong Kong but also, more importantly, the challenges in resolving differences in the culture of documents and the problematic arrival at a common platform as “international standards” emerged. More than just a resolution of archaic confusions in interstate relationships, the changing protocols reflect the conflicts between two great powers. Shifting the focus from the content of the text to the materiality of the documents, this article highlights the state-to-state negotiation over the culture of documents that conventional textual exegesis often overlooks, and underscores the enduring legacy of the 19th-century encounter that continues to haunt Sino-British relations and Hong Kong today.
Journal title, volume/issue number, page range
Law & Literature 30:2 (2018): 309-329
International Relations and Politics