Sino-British declaration 'not binding'

This file photo taken on July 1, 1997, shows a Chinese soldier (second left) holding the national flag prior to its raising as the British military (right) march during the handover ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
This file photo taken on July 1, 1997, shows a Chinese soldier (second left) holding the national flag prior to its raising as the British military (right) march during the handover ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING • China said yesterday that the joint declaration with Britain over Hong Kong, which laid the blueprint over how the city would be ruled after its return to China in 1997, was a historical document that no longer had any practical significance.

The stark announcement from the Foreign Ministry, which is sure to raise questions over Beijing's commitment to Hong Kong's core freedoms, came on the same day that Chinese President Xi Jinping said in Hong Kong that the "one country, two systems" formula was recognised "by the whole world".

It also came a day after Britain reaffirmed its commitment to the document.

Hong Kong celebrates the 20th anniversary of the return to Chinese rule today. It was not immediately clear if Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang was attacking just the idea of continued British involvement in Hong Kong, or the principles in the document.

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The Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984 by then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, guarantees, among other things, the city's rights and freedoms for "at least 50 years" after 1997.

Mr Lu told reporters during a regular briefing yesterday that the document, which British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson called a "treaty" the day before, no longer binds China.

"Now Hong Kong has returned to the motherland's embrace for 20 years, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, as a historical document, no longer has any practical significance, and it is not at all binding for the central government's management over Hong Kong.

NO PRACTICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Now Hong Kong has returned to the motherland's embrace for 20 years, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, as a historical document, no longer has any practical significance, and it is not at all binding for the central government's management over Hong Kong. The UK has no sovereignty, no power to rule and no power to supervise Hong Kong after the handover.

CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN LU KANG

"The UK has no sovereignty, no power to rule and no power to supervise Hong Kong after the handover," Mr Lu said.

Reacting to the comment, a British Foreign Office spokesman in London insisted that the joint declaration remained in force, adding that the United Kingdom government was "committed to monitoring its implementation closely".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2017, with the headline 'Sino-British declaration 'not binding''. Print Edition | Subscribe