LONDON: China is now no longer compliant with Hong Kong’s Joint Declaration after Beijing announced sweeping changes to the region’s electoral system, the United Kingdom said on Saturday (Mar 13).
In a statement, the British foreign ministry said: “The UK now considers Beijing to be in a state of ongoing non-compliance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
The treaty was signed before Britain handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997, and was designed to allay fears about its future under Beijing’s rule.
It guarantees the financial hub special status including a high degree of autonomy to manage its own affairs and the right to freedom of speech.
But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that Beijing’s decision “to impose radical changes to restrict participation in Hong Kong’s electoral system” was a “further clear breach” of the agreement.
“This is part of a pattern designed to harass and stifle all voices critical of China’s policies and is the third breach of the Joint Declaration in less than nine months,” he said.
“I must now report that the UK considers Beijing to be in a state of ongoing non-compliance with the Joint Declaration,” he added, further ramping up tensions between the two nations.
Britain has been a strong critic of China’s crackdown on activists in Hong Kong, and angered Beijing by announcing a new visa scheme offering millions of its residents a pathway to British citizenship.
The system went live in January as the city’s former colonial master opened its doors to those wanting to escape China’s crackdown on dissent.
Beijing on Thursday approved new rules that give it powers to veto candidates running in Hong Kong as it moved decisively to dismantle the city’s democratic pillars.
Raab said the move was a “demonstration of the growing gulf between Beijing’s promises and its actions”.
“The UK will continue to stand up for the people of Hong Kong,” he said.
“China must act in accordance with its legal obligations and respect fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.”