The UK Foreign Office has updated its Overseas Business Risk guide for Hong Kong, removing a phrase saying that London enjoyed a “positive, forward looking” relationship and “mutually beneficial cooperation” with the city, signalling frostier relations.

The updated guide, which appeared on Tuesday, provides an economic and geopolitical risk assessment for British businesses looking to operate in the Hong Kong market.

A protest in the UK in 2019. Photo: HKFP.

It also cited the city’s diminishing freedoms under the national security law passed by Beijing last summer: “The crimes in the [national security law] are broadly defined, but it is already reducing the extent to which the people of Hong Kong are able to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms,” it read.

The Foreign Office also raised concerns about free speech: “Uncertainties about how the provisions in the law might be used in future is reportedly having a wider chilling effect on the exercise of freedoms through encouraging self-censorship.”

The guide, last updated in August 2019, had previously read “[b]asic rights and freedoms are generally well respected in Hong Kong.”

It now warns that “Incorporated or unincorporated bodies can be fined and their operation suspended or licence/permit revoked” under the national security law.



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