The United Kingdom has critically responded to the recent Chinese resolution passed by its top legislation that squelches Hong Kong’s dissent and throws out the opposition lawmakers, effective immediately.
London said it would consider individual sanctions against China’s decision alleging that the People’s Republic has once again broken a bilateral treaty.
Hong Kong, which was a British colony for over 150-years after Britain defeated China in the First Opium War, was handed back to China in 1997.
While the power was being transferred, a memorandum was signed between both the countries which guaranteed special autonomy to Hong Kong — a right China’s mainland did not have.
The ‘Basic Law’ that allowed Hong Kong to have opposition in parliament and ‘one-country two-system’ rule was established.
China’s Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher concluded Hong Kong’s autonomy under what was called the ‘one-country two-systems.’
The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration essentially meant that Hong Kong, although will be a Chinese administrated region, will continue to enjoy more liberal rights and freedoms than what is not offered in Mainland China, as per its Special Autonomous Region status.
But China’s recent resolution passed by its top legislatures makes it possible to crush pro-democracy lawmakers in the region without having to run the process through courts — a fact China has denied.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Beijing’s recent legislation for Hong Kong is a ‘clear breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration and that “China has once again broken its promises and undermined Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.”
China has been ambitiously authoritarian over its Special administrative region of Hong Kong, alleging external influence has been meddling in China’s internal affairs in the region.
The recent sweeping resolution comes months after China declared a Security Bill which international critics saw as one of Beijing’s aggressive politics under the guise of protecting the region’s sovereign, which they cited.
How the World reacted?
UK’s Asia ministry Nigel Adams, also a deputy of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, said London was mulling possible sanctions over the new law that stripped the Hong Kong parliament of any political opposition and left with China loyalists.
“The UK will continue to call out these violations of Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms and hold China to the obligations it freely assumed under international law,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said.
The Chinese envoy to the British – ambassador Liu Xiaoming was summoned to the Foreign Office shortly after the Hong Kong lawmakers resigned, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.
Mr. Liu responded with a fierce support for China, writing on Twitter: “This decision of #HongKongSAR is justified & reasonable. Nowhere in the world are holders of public office, legislators included, ever allowed to breach their oath & betray their country.”
London’s call to China was also echoed by the US, which has strongly criticized China’s move, and the U.S. national security adviser, Robert O’Brien warned of possible sanctions.
“This latest arbitrary decision from Beijing further significantly undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle,” the EU’s 27 governments said in a statement, Reuters reports.
“We call for the immediate reversal of these decisions by the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong Government and for the immediate reinstatement of the Legislative Council members,” the EU said in a statement.
Canada has responded to the new resolution by saying it will make Hong Kong youth easier to study and work abroad in Canada.
What is China saying?
China has condemned the western criticism over the Hong Kong security law previously, and this time has well the nation has slammed European and the US critical statements as ‘another round of conflict with China over Hong Kong issues.’
As per China, although the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has some privileges the mainland does not have, ‘no institution or political or legal practice in Hong Kong can challenge this ultimate constitutional principle,’ that Hong Kong is a part of China, an editorial in China’s state-owned Global Times writes.
Four Hong Kong opposition lawmakers — Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Kwok Ka-ki, and Kenneth Leung Kai-Cheong, whom China brands as ‘unpatriotic’ resigned immediately, which was followed by the rest of the Democrats who said would hand their resignation soon.
This event was a follow-up of a powerful new resolution by China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee give’s Hong Kong’s local authority the power to squelch oppositions without having to run the matter through courts.
China said the en masse resignation was ‘ridiculous’ and it was “an unreasonable and malicious act of political confrontation that runs counter to the spirit of the law.”
“The Hong Kong opposition should do what Chinese people should do. If they resist Hong Kong’s return, they’d better migrate to the Western countries they worship,” a Global Times editorial read, which is China’s government mouthpiece.
What happens to Hong Kong?
The new development unabashedly shows the Chinese influence seeping into every layers of Hong Kong’s political fabric.
Under the terms of Britain’s handover of the region to China, Hong Kong was supposed to have special rights and privileges like freedom of opposition, speech and election for 50-years, which seems to be unlikely as of now.
With the en masse resignation of the 15 opposition lawmakers, the Hong Kong parliament stands quietly without any counterforce, becoming what they say is a ‘rubber-stamp parliament.’
Note: This story was updated with more information in the last paragraph.