UK: Hong Kong Freedoms Continue to Erode

The UK on Thursday repeated its concerns over China’s approach to Hong Kong. In its twice-yearly report, the UK accused Beijing of eroding the territory's rights and freedoms and breaching the 1997 Sino-British Joint Declaration, under which the former British colony was returned to China.

UK: Hong Kong Freedoms Continue to Erode
Image credit: Al Jazeera

Facts

  • The UK on Thursday repeated its concerns over China’s approach to Hong Kong. In its twice-yearly report, the UK accused Beijing of eroding the territory's rights and freedoms and breaching the 1997 Sino-British Joint Declaration, under which the former British colony was returned to China.
  • In response, the Chinese embassy in Britain said it was "strongly dissatisfied" with the report, which it said contained distorted facts. An embassy spokesperson said, “Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs that allow no foreign interference."
  • British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly wrote in the foreword to the report that Hong Kong’s freedoms are being “systematically eroded by Beijing on multiple fronts.” Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy when it returned to Chinese rule more than 25 years ago, but Cleverly cites restrictions on “free speech, the free press, and free assembly” as becoming prevalent.
  • In June 2020, Beijing imposed a national security law to punish terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, subversion, and secession – a move the British condemned.
  • Earlier this week, Hong Kong and Chinese authorities expressed strong opposition after Anne-Marie Trevelyan, minister for Asia, met with the legal team of Jimmy Lai, a jailed pro-democracy Hong Kong tycoon who founded Apple Daily, a closed pro-democracy newspaper.
  • Hong Kong said Thursday night, in a separate statement, that it rejected "slandering remarks and ill-intentioned political attacks" made in the UK report. Hong Kong emphasized that it is an inalienable part of the PRC, and urged London to respect the basic norms governing international relations.

Sources: Al Jazeera, Reuters, Abc, and Voa.

Narratives

  • Anti-China narrative, as provided by Reuters. The UK will continue to fight for Hong Kong because Britain made a promise during the transition of power and intends to keep it. By breaking this promise, China threatens both the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents and the continued progress and prosperity of the Hong Kong district.
  • Pro-China narrative, as provided by Chinamil. Hong Kong has long been returned to China, and the UK has no right to continue imposing its colonial mindset. It’s the UK that’s undermining Hong Kong, and China discourages any meddling from the UK or other countries.
  • Cynical narrative, as provided by Quartz. Even if the UK wanted to pressure Beijing, the options for legally requiring China to uphold its treaty are few, if not nil. The more powerful China gets, the less the international community can do. Even if the joint declaration is legally binding, no one is going to enforce it against China's will.