Hong Kong govt deplores meeting of UK Cabinet Minister and city's activists

Priti Patel (left) met Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law (right) in London. PHOTOS: REUTERS, FACEBOOK

HONG KONG/LONDON (XINHUA, REUTERS) - The Hong Kong government on Thursday (Dec 10) strongly deplored and objected to the meeting between a British Cabinet Minister and Hong Kong activists in the United Kingdom.

The flag of Hong Kong was also deliberately displayed during the meeting despite the fact that the activists have no official capacity, a spokesman from the Hong Kong government said.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel met with Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law and others in London on Wednesday, and they took pictures with the British and Hong Kong flags in the background.

Ms Patel also pledged to protect and uphold freedoms for citizens of Britain's former colony.

The meeting was clearly yet another provocative act of the British government, said the Hong Kong government spokesman.

The meeting was described as the first between the British government and Mr Law since he arrived in Britain in July, having left Hong Kong after China imposed a new national security law on the territory that has been heavily criticised by the West.

"The United Kingdom will stand by the people of Hong Kong and keep our promise to protect and uphold their freedoms," Ms Patel said in a statement accompanied by an image of the roundtable meeting.

Britain has accused China of multiple breaches of the deal to hand the territory back to China in 1997. It says China's security laws and moves to disqualify opposition legislators have undermined Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy.

During the meeting, Mr Law thanked Ms Patel for her work in opening up a new route to British citizenship for almost three million people in Hong Kong.

In response to media enquiries, the Hong Kong government spokesman said that over the past 23 years, Hong Kong has adhered strictly to the Constitution and the Basic Law and successfully implemented the "one country, two systems" framework.

The rule of law and judicial independence have been held in high regard in the international community, and Hong Kong's status as a financial centre has developed well with the support of the central government, the spokesman said.

These great achievements are testimony that the "one country, two systems" framework is the best system for safeguarding Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability.

The spokesman also pointed out that when the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed, the Chinese and the British governments exchanged memoranda in which Britain clearly pledged not to confer the right of abode in Britain on Hong Kong British National (Overseas) passport holders who are Chinese nationals in Hong Kong.

"If the UK government deliberately violates its pledge made in the British memorandum associated with the Sino-British Joint Declaration, paying no regard to the central government's firm opposition and repeated representations, and insists on using the BN(O) passport or relevant status that some people in Hong Kong still hold for political manoeuvres under the pretext of human rights and democracy to provide a path for relevant persons to reside and obtain citizenship in the UK, such a move would totally disregard history and breach international obligations," the spokesman added.

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