China lodges stern representations with Britain over Hong Kong comments

A pro-democracy protester waves a British colonial flag during a rally in Hong Kong on June 1, 2020.
A pro-democracy protester waves a British colonial flag during a rally in Hong Kong on June 1, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China lodged stern representations with the United Kingdom on Wednesday (June 3) over its foreign secretary's remarks on Hong Kong.

China's foreign ministry spokesman said that Britain had no jurisdiction or supervision over the city, and that any threat to the city's stability and prosperity comes from foreign forces.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Tuesday that China is destroying the "jewel" of Hong Kong with its crackdown.

China's Parliament last week approved a decision to create laws for Hong Kong to curb sedition, secession, terrorism and foreign interference. Mainland security and intelligence agents may be stationed in the city for the first time.

China's decision has triggered widespread concern and condemnation.

"There is time for China to reconsider, 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," Mr Raab told the British Parliament on Tuesday.

"The sad reality is that if China continues down this track, it will be strangling what has long been the jewel in the economic crown," he said, when asked about the future of the Hong Kong dollar peg.

Hong Kong fell to sixth place from third in the latest ranking of global financial centres, according to the Z/Yen global financial centres index, behind New York, London, Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore. It was Asia's top hub in 2019.

Mr Raab said the security law was in breach of the "one country, two systems" principle enshrined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, and also conflicted with Article 23 of China's own basic law.

 
 
 

Mr Raab, though, cautioned that he did not expect China to change course. "We think that it is unlikely that will happen," he said. If it goes ahead, he said Britain will form an alliance of countries to resist China.

He added that Britain could not coerce China but would seek to persuade it to change course. If China does not change course, British National (Overseas) passport-holders in Hong Kong will be offered a path to British citizenship.

Asked if London would go further, Mr Raab said that the offer was already generous: There are around 300,000 holders of BNO passports in Hong Kong and another three million were eligible.