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By Greg Quinn (British High Commissioner to Guyana
My good friend the Chinese Ambassador laid out his Government’s position on Hong Kong in a letter published in the media on 17 June. As the other signatory to the relevant agreements let me take this opportunity to lay out the UK position.
In short we believe Beijing’s imposition of a wide-ranging national security law in Hong Kong is a grave and deeply disturbing step and (as the Foreign Secretary, the Rt. Hon. Dominic Raab, said on 01 July) constitutes a clear and serious violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. We are firm in our belief that the law violates the high degree of autonomy enjoyed by the executive, legislative and judiciary in Hong Kong and is in direct conflict with Hong Kong’s Basic Law. The Foreign Secretary’s statement (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/foreign-secretary-statement-on-national-security-legislation-in-hong-kong) sets out our concerns in more detail.
As the Foreign Secretary said on 01 July: ‘Today I have the depressing but necessary duty to report to the House that the enactment of this legislation, imposed by the authorities in Beijing on the people of Hong Kong, constitutes a clear and serious breach of the joint declaration … China has broken its promise to the people of Hong Kong under its own laws, and has breached its international obligations to the United Kingdom under the joint declaration. Having committed to applying the UN’s international covenant on civil and political rights to the people of Hong Kong, China has now written into law wide-ranging exemptions that cannot credibly be reconciled with its international obligations, or its responsibilities as a leading member of the international community.’
There should be no doubt that the UK will not duck our historic responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong. We will now proceed to change the arrangements for those holding British Nationals (Overseas) status and their family dependants. This will provide them with a route to British citizenship.
We will also continue to raise our concerns with China and press for a solution which respects the long-standing ‘One Country Two Systems’. However, China’s disregard for its international obligations should be concerning for us all as it goes against fundamental principles of international law and the rules based international system. The Joint Declaration is a legally binding, international treaty, registered with the UN. China has breached that treaty.
As the Foreign Secretary also said: ‘We want a positive relationship with China. We recognise its growth, its stature, and the powerful role it can play in the world. It is precisely because we respect China as a leading member of the international community that we expect the Chinese Government to meet their international obligations and live up to their international responsibilities. They have failed to do so with respect to Hong Kong by enacting legislation that violates its autonomy and threatens the strangulation of its freedoms. It is a sad day for the people of Hong Kong—one that can only undermine international trust in the Chinese Government’s willingness to keep its word and live up to its promises.’
Let me conclude by saying the UK wants a positive relationship with China. The Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister have made that clear. But we will not look the other way when it comes to Hong Kong and we will not ignore our responsibilities to its people.