If you dance to the music, don’t you know you have to pay to the piper, is a question asked in an old song. This song references the story of the pied piper who gets rid of rats in a town by playing on a flute. As the story goes, once the rats are gone, the town people refuse to pay the pied piper, who consequently, plays the flute to take away all of the children of the town as payment.
The British Empire decided to expand its territories in the East by negotiating with what it believed to be a weaker opponent, China. When the British negotiated the Treaty of Nanking, the conditions for bilateral relations were not mutually satisfactory (Tsang 2011, 14). The British demanded the right to trade opium, which was reprehensible to the Chinese. The rule of law, which was the pride of the British legal system, was administered unfairly with racism and cultural superiority (Tsang 2011, 46). Overall, the system favored the British in almost every way. However, the Chinese agreed to only lease the land to the British for 99 years. The short-sighted British viewed this 99-year lease as an eternity, never really believing that payment would one day be required.
It is easy to find fault with the colonialism of the British Empire, and indeed there is much to dislike. The selling of the highly addictive opium to the Chinese to build the economy of Great Britain was pure greed and evil. Many of Great Britain’s most storied companies, such as Jardines, has its history embedded in the opium drug trade. Sadly, this drug trade is still a part of every major Western capitalistic society and is destroying the very countries that fueled the drug trade.
Today the illegal drug trade represents a global problem. Wealthy, drug consuming countries are essentially destroying the economies of the smaller, drug producing countries that try to satisfy the demand for illegal drugs. The production of illegal drugs is more profitable for many countries than the production of legal crops. Even some of our immigration problems in the United States of America can be linked to the illegal drug trade.
Also, the very system that made Hong Kong one of the most capitalistic economies in the World, is the source of economic power in China today (Day 1984, 627). There is an enormous financial benefit and gain by Hong Kong being a great financial center for China today (Day 1984, 644). China’s ability to wait the 99 years plus a few more, for the transition of power, shows that the British Empire is certainly having its day of reckoning.
Although we can be critical of the way that Hong Kong was developed, we are often blind to the development of sin in our own societies, religious institutions, and even our lives. We create systems in our churches and society that corrupt the very values we say we hold dear. Our church and political leaders are chosen on the basis of charisma and smooth speech rather than substance and character. The traditions of mankind outweigh what the Bible teaches is right, and our churches are just as split over values as our society. We use prosperity as a sign of God’s blessing and confirmation that we are doing what is right. Often, we shun the poor as those with not enough faith to receive God’s blessings.
However, Isaiah 2:12 says, “For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning Against everyone who is proud and lofty And against everyone who is lifted up, That he may be abased.” The sins of colonialism is nothing more than the sin of pride that can be found within the human heart of the people that run our countries. We all must realize that we never get by with sin. Sin has long-lasting consequences that last much longer than the little pleasure it gives. Sin is the piper that makes us pay in the end. All of the riches provided by the immoral gains of the drug trade are lost by the overall cost to our society in the loss of lives and destruction of communities.
Yet we are not without hope; the Bible still beckons us to turn to Christ. Isaiah 1:18 says, ““Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” Real change in our society, our institutions, begins with an individual change of heart. As we each reconcile ourselves to Christ, we can begin to show that Christ desires to reconcile the world to Himself.
Day, Christian C. “The Recovery of Hong Kong by the People’s Republic of China – A Fifty Year Experiment in Capitalism and Freedom.” Syracuse Journal of International Law & Commerce, Vol. 11, 1984: 625-649.
Tsang, Steve. A Modern History of Hong Kong. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.