Hong Kong slams latest British government report on city, saying London is putting politics above the rule of law

The Hong Kong government strongly condemned British “slander and smears” and interference in local affairs after London on Monday sought to reassure Hongkongers in the UK they were “safe” from the city’s national security laws and that it would not allow any foreign attempts to harm individuals in the country.

The government said in a late-night statement on Monday that the UK was repeating its old tricks, ignoring facts, making fallacies, putting politics above the rule of law, and confusing right and wrong on all aspects of Hong Kong.

Britain blatantly interfered with Hong Kong affairs in a futile attempt to undermine the city’s prosperity and stability, it said.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron. Photo: dpa

The strongly worded response followed remarks by UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron in London’s latest six-monthly report on Hong Kong that under the national security law imposed on the city in 2020, almost all political opposition had been “eliminated”.

“Dissent has been criminalised. Civil society has been marginalised,” he said in the 54th report to the British parliament, covering the period between July and December last year.

“The Hong Kong authorities’ efforts to stamp out ‘soft resistance’ has targeted even the most minor deviations from unwavering support for the governments of Hong Kong and China.”

The national security law, imposed by Beijing in June 2020 after months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, prohibits acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Since July 1997, the foreign secretary has been required to report to parliament at six-monthly intervals on the implementation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, the agreement that paved the way for Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty.

It was the first report by Cameron, a former prime minister, on the city since his term as foreign secretary began last November.

Cameron said Hong Kong authorities had attempted to enforce the national security law extraterritorially by issuing arrest warrants and HK$1 million bounties for each of 13 opposition figures living overseas, mostly in Britain.

“We will not tolerate any attempt by any foreign power to intimidate, harass or harm individuals in the United Kingdom,” he said.

“The national security law has no authority in the UK. We do not have an active extradition agreement with Hong Kong or China. I want to assure our valued Hong Kong community in the United Kingdom: you are safe here.”

He accused Beijing of breaching the joint declaration by imposing the national security law.

Under the declaration, both China and Britain agreed that the city would maintain a high degree of autonomy except in foreign and defence affairs for at least 50 years following the handover in 1997.

“This law, rushed through the legislative process, is likely incompatible with international human rights law,” he said.

“It falls short of the international standards Hong Kong has promised to uphold and will have a negative impact on Hong Kong people’s ability to exercise their rights and freedoms.”

Hong Kong implemented its domestic national security law on March 23, targeting five major activities: treason; insurrection, incitement to mutiny and disaffection, and acts with seditious intent; sabotage; external interference endangering national security; and theft of state secrets and espionage.

The government also said on Monday that the Beijing-imposed national security legislation had extraterritorial effect, and police were responsible for pursuing those suspected of violating the law overseas.


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