By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) - The UK on Thursday called on China to “re-consider” and “step back from the brink” over the crisis in Hong Kong.
In a statement to parliament, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Hong Kong’s success was built on its autonomy and freedoms, and that China itself has long affirmed the One Country, Two Systems approach.
“The UK, through successive governments, has consistently respected and supported that model, as reflected both in China’s Basic Law and also the Joint Declaration,” Raab said.
The Joint Declaration is a UK-China treaty registered with the UN, which was part of the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1984.
“This proposed national security law undermines the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework that I have described, under which Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy with executive, legislative and independent judicial powers,” Raab said.
“To be very clear and specific about this, the imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the government in Beijing, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions, lies in direct conflict with Article 23 of China’s own Basic Law. And it lies in direct conflict with China’s international obligations freely assumed under the Joint Declaration,” he added.
Raab said the proposed national security law raises the prospect of prosecuting Hong Kongers for political crimes, undermining their rights and freedoms as set out in the Joint Declaration.
With regards to the UK approach, he said Britain strongly opposes the “authoritarian law” being imposed by China in breach of international law.
“The UK stands firm with our international partners in our expectation that China live up to its international obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” he said, adding: “There is time for China to re-consider, there is a moment for China to step back from the brink and respect Hong Kong’s autonomy and respect China’s own international obligations.”
Raab said the UK will allow British nationals (overseas) to come to the UK and study and work for extendable periods of 12 months, giving them a path to citizenship.
Raab concluded his statement reaffirming the UK’s historic links with Hong Kong: “We, as the United Kingdom, have historic responsibilities, a duty I would say, to the people of Hong Kong.”
“I sincerely hope China will reconsider its approach,” he said. “But if not, the UK will not just look the other way when it comes to the people of Hong Kong. We will stand by them, we will live up to our responsibilities.”