British Secretary of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab on Saturday accused China of breaching a legal deal over the governance of Hong Kong, amid criticisms of Beijing’s attempts to tighten its control over the territory.
In a major escalation of diplomatic tensions, Raab said the UK considered China to be in a “state of ongoing noncompliance” with the Sino-British joint declaration as he condemned Beijing’s decision to reduce the role of the public in picking Hong Kong’s leaders.
China has instead handed power to a pro-Beijing committee, which would appoint more council members.
Raab said the move was the third breach of the legally binding joint declaration in less than nine months and part of a “pattern designed to harass and stifle all voices critical of China’s policies.”
“Beijing’s decision to impose radical changes to restrict participation in Hong Kong’s electoral system constitutes a further clear breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration,” he added.
“The Chinese authorities’ continued action means I must now report that the UK considers Beijing to be in a state of ongoing noncompliance with the joint declaration — a demonstration of the growing gulf between Beijing’s promises and its actions,” he said.
“The UK will continue to stand up for the people of Hong Kong. China must act in accordance with its legal obligations and respect fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong,” Raab said.
Tensions have been growing since China imposed a National Security Law in Hong Kong, making it easier to clamp down on protesters.
The joint declaration was signed by the UK and China in 1984.
The EU also raised concerns on Friday.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that China was “consciously dismantling the ‘one country, two systems’ principle in violation of its international commitments and the Hong Kong Basic Law.”
China yesterday fired back in a 500-word statement asserting its control over the territory and accusing the UK of “groundless slanders.”
“Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China,” it said. “How to design and improve its electoral system is purely China’s internal affair and brooks no external interference.”
“The UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of ‘supervision’ over Hong Kong after the handover, and it has no so-called ‘obligations’ to Hong Kong citizens,” China said in a statement posted on the Web site of its London embassy.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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