According to a study by Britain on its former colony, Beijing has violated its legal commitments by weakening Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and using a national security law to “dramatically constrain liberties” in the global financial centre.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab claimed in an introduction to the six-monthly report spanning July-December 2020 that Beijing was using a sweeping national security rule imposed on the city in June last year to crush political opposition.
According to Raab, there had been “obvious breaches” of the 1984 Joint Declaration, which was signed by then-Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and granted Hong Kong wide-ranging freedoms.
“As a result, we have now deemed China to be in continuous non-compliance with the Joint Declaration,” Raab said, adding that the national security law was not being used to target a small group of criminals as Beijing claimed.
“Rather, it is being utilized to severely restrict the space for the expression of different political viewpoints, as well as to discourage freedom of expression and legitimate political debate,” he said in a statement issued on Thursday.
The Hong Kong administration retaliated against “inaccurate remarks” that “could not be further from the truth and are blatantly double standards,” according to the authorities.
Following a year of sometimes violent protests, Beijing slapped a national security law on Hong Kong in June, punishing what officials generally interpret as secession, sedition, and cooperation with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Western nations and international human rights organizations are concerned that the measure will suffocate Hong Kong’s freedoms.
The security bill, according to Britain, was a violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which prepared the ground for the handover. Britain ruled Hong Kong for over 150 years before handing it over to China in 1997.