Interfering in HK will backfire, China warns Britain

Top News | Mandy Zheng and agencies 4 Jun 2020

China hit back at Britain yesterday after its foreign minister said he has spoken to “Five Eyes” allies about potentially opening their doors to Hongkongers if Beijing’s plan to impose a national security law on the city sparks an exodus.

“We advise the UK to step back from the brink, abandon their Cold War mentality and colonial mindset, and recognize and respect the fact that Hong Kong has returned to China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said yesterday as more countries have been brought into the national law controversy.

In parliament on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had reached out to Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada about contingency plans if the national security law creates a deluge of Hongkongers looking to leave.

“I raised it on the Five Eyes call yesterday – the possibility of burden sharing if we see a mass exodus from Hong Kong,” Raab told parliamentarians, referring to the intelligence-sharing alliance among the five states.

Raab said the law lies in direct conflict with China’s international obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and would “upend the one country, two systems paradigm.”

At a regular press conference in Beijing yesterday, Zhao said London must “immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and China’s internal affairs, or this will definitely backfire.”

The Joint Declaration does not contain any clause that entrusts Britain with any responsibility for Hong Kong after its return to China in 1997, and the country has no right to make irresponsible comments on the SAR using the declaration as an excuse, he said.

Tension has been heating up since Britain said last week it could offer millions of Hongkongers visas and a possible route to UK citizenship if China persists with its national security law.

In an article published in newspapers yesterday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeated that BN(O) passport holders could be granted visa-free access to Britain for 12 months, as well as the right to work which could lead to citizenship.

An estimated 2.9 million Hong Kong residents were eligible for such passports, with nearly 350,000 holding valid ones, according to government statistics in February.

“If it proves necessary, the British government will take this step and take it willingly,” Johnson wrote, adding that it would make one of the biggest changes in its visa system in British history.

Tom Tugendhat, a member of the British parliament and chairman of its Foreign Affairs Committee, yesterday wrote a letter together with his counterparts from Australia, Canada and New Zealand demanding United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres send a special envoy to protect the rule of law and human rights in Hong Kong.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday the country welcomes people from around the globe who flee persecution and violence, but stopped short of committing to accept asylum-seekers looking to leave.

He said he was concerned about the situation in the SAR, while urging Beijing to engage constructively with Hong Kong people.

“We will continue to stand up for peace, dialogue, de-escalation of tensions,” he said.

Trudeau said that 300,000 Canadian citizens live in the SAR, but did not mention any specific measure to aid them.

Activists in Hong Kong said they received 70,000 signatures for a petition that urges European leaders to oppose the national security law.

Drafted by Demosisto secretary general Joshua Wong Chi-fung, former lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Sunny Cheung Kwan-yeung from Network DIPLO, the petition aims to lobby politicians in the international community to pressure Beijing.

“There are still 15 European countries that haven’t announced their stance on the law. I hope to spread the voice of opposition to different places,” Wong said.

State media Xinhua reported that several countries support national security legislation, including North Korea, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Philippines, among others.

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