Morale: Hong Kong Blues Done Gone Away

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January 30, 2008: Honk Kong is open for business again, at least as far as the U.S. Navy is concerned. On January 28th, the USS Blue Ridge visited Hong Kong, and its crew of 700 went ashore for some R&R. The port has been off-limits to the U.S. Navy since last November, and no is sure why.

It all began in late November, when Chinese authorities in Hong Kong refused to allow two U.S. Navy minesweepers to take shelter in Hong Kong harbor, to escape a storm and refuel. This is considered a very hostile act in peacetime. The "law of the sea" calls for ships to be allowed shelter from storms in peacetime, and breeching this custom is considered a shameful act. The Chinese offered no explanation for their action.

Then, despite having granted permission months ago, Chinese authorities in Hong Kong suddenly withdrew permission for another three American warships to visit Hong Kong. No explanation was given, and the Hong Kong business community saw millions of dollars in business go away. The American ships carried over 8,000 sailors. Moreover, hundreds of family members of sailors had flown to Hong Kong at their own expense, to share the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday (celebrated on November 22nd last year), were left high and dry.

American diplomats and military officials tried to find out what was going on, but were met with conflicting reasons from Chinese officials. Apparently there was a dispute within the Chinese leadership, and shutting down Hong Kong to U.S. warships was one of the side effects. This infuriated the Hong Kong business community, which makes lots of money from these visits. U.S. officials got the impression that the Hong Kong big shots sorted it all out, didn't want to discuss the details, and were eager to go back to business as usual. The Hong Kong economy depends a lot on tourism and recreational visits by foreign warships. Always has, and wants to keep it that way.

 


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