I'm referring to just Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula that was "fully ceded to the British in 1842" in perpetuity. It was New Territories that was leased for 99 years.
I'm trying to distinguish H.K. with Gibraltar, but less so Falkland Islands because Falkland Islands 500 km away from Argentina.
- If U.K. thought China can just cut off water and electricity to HK, can't Spain do same to Gibraltar? How does Gibraltar differ?
[Thatcher herself later said that during the negotiations between the two sides that Deng had told her that "I could walk in and take the whole lot this afternoon" and she had replied that "there is nothing I could do to stop you but the world would now know what China is like". Lu Ping, the chief Chinese negotiator during the handover process later confirm that Deng was not bluffing and China would have invaded not only if the talks failed but also if there had being a popular uprising in Hong Kong which prevented the handover from taking place.
Hong Kong was geographically indefensible and both sides knew it. Hence why Hong Kong had a token garrison which was incapable of defending against a serious Chinese attack. The official US report NSC 5717 in 1957 evaluated the value of Hong Kong as a propaganda and intelligence gathering asset but concluded that the colony was not defensible and hence the US would not render combat assistance to the UK in the event of a Chinese attack.
- Why did the U.K. knuckle to China, when it didn't bow to Spain, or Argentina and fought them in the Falkland Island War?
Can't Spain do same as Deng Xiaoping and "walk in and take the whole lot"? Of note, Spain and Gibraltar aren't even separated by water. Victoria Harbor separates HK Islands from Kowloon by 1 km, but three under-ground tunnels connect them.