UK 'deeply troubled' by China's Hong Kong security legislation

28 May 2020, 21:15

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaks outside Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaks outside Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The UK is “deeply troubled” about China’s decision to impose national security legislation on the people of Hong Kong, Dominic Raab has said.

The Foreign Secretary said the new legislation would “clearly violate the autonomy of the people of Hong Kong.”

Mr Raab also vowed to extend visa rights for Hong Kong citizens if the bill is implemented, and would drop the current six-month limit in favour of one year, which would “provide a pathway to future citizenship.”

Hong Kong was a British colony for 156 years until it was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997. It remains a special administrative region, with its own governing systems.

Beijing insists the security legislation would tackle terrorism and foreign interference, but activists in Hong Kong claim it will threaten traditional freedoms in the city.

Mr Raab said: “Today the National People's Congress of China have formally announced their decision to impose national security legislation on the people of Hong Kong.

“I’ve been talking to the Prime Minister about this and talking with some of our very closest partners around the world, including the US, Canada and Australia.

“We are deeply troubled about this step.

“We’ve put out a joint statement and the decision now lies with China but if it follows through on this legislation and implements it, it would clearly violate the autonomy of the people of Hong Kong and it would also violate the freedoms set out in the UK-China Joint Declaration, which dates back to 1984.

“We are obviously deeply concerned about this step and working with our international partners what we now would like to see is China just pause for thought and step back from this step, reconsider and above all live up to its international obligations and indeed its international responsibilities as a leading member of the international community.”

Mr Raab joined with foreign ministers from Australia, Canada and US to urge China to work with the government of Hong Kong to find a "mutually acceptable accommodation that will honour China's international obligations" under the Joint Declaration.

They said the new legislation would “undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework.”

Police rush towards a group of protesters whilst firing pepper balls during lunchtime street demonstrations
Police rush towards a group of protesters whilst firing pepper balls during lunchtime street demonstrations. Picture: PA

In a joint statement, they added: “It also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people - including those set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Mr Raab has urged China to “step back from the brink” and “live up to its responsibilities as a leading member of the international community.”

He added: “We've been very clear that if China implements this decision it would violate the autonomy and the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.

“And that's not just as a matter of the Basic Law – China’s law as it applies to Hong Kong - but as a matter of treaty law so China's own international obligations.

“We want to wait and see the details of the legislation. In the meantime we urge China to step back from the brink and live up to its responsibilities as a leading member of the international community.

“And we’ll obviously be in close contact with all of our international partners around the world about what steps to take next.”

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