The Chinese government has used national security law to “drastically restrict” freedom of expression, the British government said in its latest six-month report on the situation in the former British colony.
In a preface in the reportForeign Minister Dominic Raab said: “China has breached its legal obligations by undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, rights and freedoms, which are guaranteed under the Joint Declaration.”
In March, the British government declared that the Chinese regime was ‘in a state of constant non-compliance’ with the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed by the then Chinese Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang and the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which granted wide Hong Kong for at least 50 years.
The draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the Chinese government in June 2020 has been of particular concern, punishing individuals for any acts of undermining, secession and collusion with foreign forces against the Chinese Communist Party, with a maximum life sentence imprisonment.
Raab said in the preface: “The National Security Act is not being used for the original purpose, as stated by Beijing, to target ‘only a small number of criminals who seriously endanger national security’.
‘It is rather used to drastically curtail the space for the expression of alternative political views and to ward off freedom of expression and legitimate political debate.
“We are now seeing the consequences of a law with loosely defined provisions, backed by the threat of potentially long prison sentences and the transfer of cases to mainland China for prosecution and sentencing.”
Raab said the situation was “deeply worrying”, but the United Kingdom “stood up for its values and for the people of Hong Kong.”
In January, Britain launched a new visa scheme for British status holders (British overseas) enabling them to live, study and work in the UK for five years and eventually to apply for citizenship.
According to the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, there were 34,000 applications from Hong Kong residents to live in Britain in the first three months of the year.
China spokesman Wang Wenbin condemned the British report at a routine press conference in Beijing, which he said was “full of ideological prejudice”.
He said the national security law had helped Hong Kong “regain stability and get back on track.”
Wang urged the UK to “abandon its old colonial dream” and “stop interfering in China’s domestic affairs, including Hong Kong affairs.”