UK’s interference in China’s HK national security legislation could have ‘serious consequences’

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/3 17:39:27

Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian makes remarks at a press briefing. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The UK should understand that China is not the former Yugoslavia, and 2020 is not the 1990s when the West dominated the world order and was able to intervene in the Balkans issue and break up a sovereign country into pieces, so its plan to form an international alliance to interfere in China's national security legislation for Hong Kong will definitely see tough retaliation from China, said Chinese analysts.

In a joint letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a cross-party group of seven former foreign secretaries says that the UK government "must be seen to lead the international response" as China pushes for the national security legislation for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), a former British colony which returned to China in 1997, BBC reported on Monday.

The former cabinet members expressed their concern at what they call China's "flagrant breach" of Sino-British agreements, according to BBC. They urged Johnson to set up an "international contact group" of allies to coordinate any joint action, similar to that set up in 1994 to try to end the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that these UK politicians are making a serious mistake, as it seems like they are still living in their old dream of a Great British Empire.

"China is much more powerful than the former Yugoslavia, and the West today is far weaker and less influential than it was in the 1990s, so if they use the approach for the Balkans in the 1990s to interfere in China's internal affairs, they will definitely receive disastrous and unbearable retaliation," he said.

Many Chinese web users also mocked the move by UK politicians. "After Brexit, London is getting more and more drunk. It seems like they are addicted to the illusion of the 'empire on which the sun never sets'," read one comment that received hundreds of likes on, a Chinese news website.

A Downing Street spokesman insisted that the UK government was already playing a leading role with international partners in urging China to "think again."

Li said that after Brexit, the UK has decided to stand closer with the US under the Trump administration, so this time those UK politicians wanted to show how important they are to their biggest ally. He added that the UK has many hidden interests in Hong Kong, including intelligence, finance, and business. It can even intervene in the HKSAR's jurisdiction as it has special influence over the city's legal system. 

"If China finalized the national security legislation in the HKSAR, many of these hidden interests will disappear, and the UK and the US can no longer use Hong Kong to challenge and influence the Chinese mainland, and they will also be unable to conduct activities in the city to harm China's national security. This is why they are getting nervous," Li said.

A spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy to Britain said on Tuesday that China expresses grave concern about and strong opposition to such flagrant interference in Hong Kong affairs, which are China's internal affairs.  

"We urge the relevant UK politicians to accept the fact that Hong Kong is now part of China, observe the principle of noninterference in other country's internal affairs, and stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs, which are China's internal affairs, in any form," said the spokesperson.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, "The UK would not turn a blind eye." He also said the new security legislation "very clearly violates" the autonomy that is guaranteed under Chinese law as well as that in the 1997 agreement, BBC reported on Monday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday, "China expresses strong dissatisfaction with this and firmly opposes it. We have made solemn representations to the British side."

The Sino-British Joint Declaration does not contain any words or clause that entrust the UK with any responsibility for Hong Kong after its return to China in 1997, and the UK has "no sovereignty, governance or supervision over the returned Hong Kong," Zhao said. 

Therefore, the British side has no right to use the "Sino-British Joint Statement" to make irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs and interfere in China's internal affairs, he remarked.

Raab confirmed that the UK will allow those who hold British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports to come to the UK and apply to study and work for an extendable 12-month period.

On this matter, the Chinese Embassy spokesperson said the UK had explicitly pledged in an MOU exchanged with China that BNO passport holders who are Chinese citizens residing in Hong Kong will not have the right of abode in the UK. 

"If the UK is bent on changing this unilaterally, it will not only go against its own position and promise, but also violate international law and the basic norms governing international relations," the Chinese Embassy spokesperson said.

On the impact that the national security law will have on Hong Kong, Zhao said that the law only targeted very few acts that seriously endanger China's national security and will not affect Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy. 

"Neither the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents nor the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong will be affected. The law is conducive to the better implementation of the 'one country, two systems' policy and to Hong Kong's prosperity and stability," Zhao noted.

Raab said the UK's plan to build an international alliance is aimed at forcing China to "step back from the brink."

Zhao responded, "We also advise the British side to step back from the brink, abandon its Cold War and colonial mentality, recognize and respect the fact that Hong Kong has returned to and is an SAR of China, abide by the basic principles of international law and international relations, and immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs. Otherwise, the UK will lift the stone and hit its own feet."

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