LONDON (AP) — Britain's foreign secretary on Saturday criticized China for continuing to violate the Sino-British Joint Declaration as Beijing further tightens control over Hong Kong.
Dominic Raab said Beijing's decision to “impose radical changes to restrict participation in Hong Kong's electoral system ... is part of a pattern designed to harass and stifle all voices critical of China's policies." The moves amount to the third breach of the Joint Declaration in less than nine months, Raab said in a statement.
“The Chinese authorities’ continued action means I must now report that the U.K. considers Beijing to be in a state of ongoing non-compliance with the Joint Declaration — a demonstration of the growing gulf between Beijing’s promises and its actions," the foreign secretary said.
British and Chinese authorities signed the agreement in 1984, paving the way for Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997. The agreement stipulated that the former British colony would retain a high degree of autonomy and its civil rights and freedoms for at least 50 years.
The U.K. and U.S. criticized China Thursday when its ceremonial legislature endorsed the Communist Party’s move to reduce the role of Hong Kong voters in picking the territory's lawmakers and ensure “patriots” rule the city. Under the changes, a pro-Beijing committee that picks the city's chief executive will have the power to also appoint a “relatively large” number of members of Hong Kong's 90-seat legislature.
It is the latest in a series of policies responding to sometimes-violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong that plunged the city into crisis in 2019. Beijing last year imposed a national security law on the city and since then dozens of pro-democracy figures have been arrested and many are in exile.
Chinese officials have said the measures are necessary to prevent secessionist movements and root out any campaign advocating for Hong Kong's independence.
Some U.K. lawmakers have lobbied for sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials to protect the city's democracy, but Raab has so far not responded to such calls.