The UK government has slammed China over it's aggressive and likely irreversible moves to clamp down on Hong Kong's electoral system which many see as but the logical outcome of last summer's sweeping national security law which effectively silenced the anti-mainland opposition. China sees it as "patriotic" reform and a badly needed "overhaul" however.
London now says China is in "a state of ongoing non-compliance" with the Sino-British Joint Declaration which eventually led to the "one country, two systems" status quo in effect for over two decades running.
"Beijing’s decision to impose radical changes to restrict participation in Hong Kong’s electoral system constitutes a further clear breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement on Saturday.
The statement underscored it was no less than the third breach in under a year: "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," Raab's statement went on.
The continuing non-compliance is "a demonstration of the growing gulf between Beijing’s promises and its actions," it continued.
The UK statement expressing outrage over the anti-democratic changes came days after last week's National People's Congress (NPC) move to approve a resolution that imposes sweeping changes on Hong Kong's electoral system which is ultimately aimed to ensure that mainland loyalists are in firm control of running the city.
It will in essence give a powerful already largely pro-Beijing election committee oversight to vet candidates for office based on how "pro-China" they are, effectively choking off any opposition hopes for breathing space in the city's government. Their new powers over the Legislative Council (LegCo) which is to also include electing many its members will automatically dilute the number directly elected by the public.
We share the UK’s concerns that the latest actions by the People's Republic of China further undermine Hong Kong’s democratic institutions and demonstrate Beijing's continued disregard for international commitments and obligations. We #StandWithHongKong. https://t.co/mByE8yIyye]— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) March 15, 2021
As expected, China has hit back, with the Chinese embassy in the UK promptly rebutting what it called "groundless slanders":
"The U.K. has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of 'supervision' over Hong Kong after the handover, and it has no so-called 'obligations' to Hong Kong citizens,” a spokesperson said on Saturday. “No foreign country or organization has the right to take the Joint Declaration as an excuse to interfere in Hong Kong affairs, which are China's internal affairs."
Alongside Washington, London has over the past two years witnessed rapidly deteriorating relations with Beijing, particularly after it offered Hong Kong residents "a path to British citizenship" in direct response to last June's national security law passage.