The United Kingdom on Thursday said that China had broken its main bilateral treaty on Hong Kong by imposing new rules to disqualify legislators, and added it would consider sanctions as part of its response.
“Beijing’s imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong constitutes a clear breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration. China has once again broken its promises and undermined Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy”, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said.
Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule. Hong Kong’s autonomy was guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” agreement enshrined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
In June, China imposed a controversial new national security law after last year’s pro-democracy protests. It aims to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life in prison. The law bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and was only revealed on the day it was enacted.
On Wednesday, fifteen pro-democracy lawmakers resigned from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in protest of four other legislators being expelled. They were the last remaining pro-democracy lawmakers.
Britain summoned China’s ambassador, Liu Xiaoming, to express its deep concerns and Raab’s deputy, Nigel Adams, told parliament that it was considering possible sanctions on individuals over China’s actions.
The European Union also called on Beijing to reverse the new rules, which it said undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy.