UK condemns China's 'deeply troubling' new Hong Kong law

Aditi Khanna

London, Jun 30 (PTI) The UK on Tuesday condemned the Chinese move to pass a controversial national security law in Hong Kong as a 'deeply troubling' step, which it needs to see in detail to determine if it breaches the Joint Declaration under which the former British colony had been handed over to China in 1997.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously said he would consider extra rights to an estimated 2.6 million Hong Kong-based people eligible for the British National (Overseas) passport, which would allow them visa-free travel to the UK for 12 months and a route to eventual British citizenship.

Earlier on Tuesday, when asked about China’s move, he said: “We are obviously deeply concerned about the decision to pass the national security law in Beijing as it affects Hong Kong.

'We will be looking at the law very carefully and we will want to scrutinise it properly to understand whether it is in conflict with the Joint Declaration between the UK and China. We will be setting out our response in due course.' UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that Beijing had chosen to ignore its international obligations by assuming new powers over Hong Kong, which critics fear will curb civil liberties in the region.

“Despite the urging of the international community, Beijing has chosen not to step back from imposing this legislation,” Raab said in a statement.

“China has ignored its international obligations regarding Hong Kong. This is a grave step, which is deeply troubling. We urgently need to see the full legislation, and will use that to determine whether there has been a breach of the Joint Declaration and what further action the UK will take,” he said.

During Foreign Office questions in the House of Commons, Raab called on China to 'step back from the brink'.

'The success of Hong Kong, the entrepreneurial spirit, the vibrancy, the economic success, has been built on its autonomy in the one country, two systems paradigm. That clearly is at threat if China, as we now fear, has enacted the legislation and our worst fears in terms of the substantive detail are borne out,” the foreign minister said.

“It would be bad news for all international businesses not just for the people of Hong Kong but for China. Which is why even at this stage we would urge China to step back from the brink, respect the rights of the people of Hong Kong and frankly live up to its international obligations through the joint declaration and to the international community,” he said.

Opposition Labour Party's shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy told Raab in the Commons that he 'must not waver' over his responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong.

“He (Raab) told me in this House a few weeks ago that at its application Britain would act. That law comes into force tomorrow (Wednesday), he must not waver,” she said.

Civil liberties, including the right to protest, freedom of speech and the independence of the judiciary, were enshrined in Hong Kong's mini-constitution called “Basic Law”, which came into effect with the end of British control in 1997.

The 50-year agreement in effect offers Hong Kong a 'one country, two systems' principle, guaranteeing it the rights and freedoms that do not exist in mainland China. PTI AK ZH ZH