Johnson urged to push for HK monitor group


Seven former British foreign ministers yesterday called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to push Group of 7 allies to set up an international monitoring group for Hong Kong in response to Beijing's tightening control over the SAR.

Beijing has sparked alarm among Western powers with plans to impose a national security law.

Beijing says the law is needed to combat "terrorism" and "separatism" after the city was upended last year by seven months of pro-democracy protests.

Opponents fear the law - which is bypassing Hong Kong's legislature - will be used to stifle dissent, like on the mainland, and will deal a fatal blow to the autonomy promised ahead of its 1997 handover.

Britain, the United States, Australia and Canada have issued a statement criticizing Beijing's plan, while London has announced plans to extend visa rights to Hongkongers eligible for British National (Overseas) passports.

But former foreign secretaries from both sides of Britain's political divide have called on Johnson to take a more proactive role.

"The UK must be seen to be leading and coordinating the international response to this crisis," the group said in a letter made public yesterday.

The letter was signed by Malcolm Rifkind, Margaret Beckett, William Hague, Jeremy Hunt, David Miliband, David Owen and Jack Straw. They called on Johnson to reach out to G7 allies "to formally institute an International Contact Group in consultation with international partners, to monitor the situation in Hong Kong and coordinate joint action."

The working group could be modeled on an organization set up by the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia to respond to the Balkans crisis in the early 1990s, they suggested.

The former foreign ministers argued that Beijing is in "flagrant breach" of the 1984 agreement where Beijing guaranteed Hong Kong would keep its freedoms and autonomy for 50 years after the handover.

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