China’s decision to make its own ruling over the legislative council oath-taking controversy in Hong Kong is something that is of great concern to the United Kingdom. Beijing becoming involved in what has – until now – been purely a matter for Hong Kong is questionable and is far more likely to inflame matters than settle them. Now more than ever, the UK must take note of what is happening in the Special Administrative Region (SAR) and ensure that China upholds its side of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
The UK’s relationship with Hong Kong is one of the most important we have in Asia. The links with London date to the first opium war (1839-1842), and over the subsequent centuries they grew, primarily over shared values. Since 1997, our trade, education, and cultural bonds have only strengthened. Given this history, Britain should continue to support the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle which underpins Hong Kong’s status. The best way to safeguard Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity is for it to advance to a system of universal suffrage, as envisaged by the Basic Law.
Recent political unease in Hong Kong led to an unprecedented constitutional battle taking place in the legislature, culminating in the walk-out by pro-Beijing legislators on 19 October. At the heart of the issue is the belief – growing among Hong Kong’s students and academics – that Beijing’s commitment to the Joint Declaration or the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is mere window dressing. Chapter five of that declaration says:
‘Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, and academic research and of religious belief will be ensured by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.