Hong Kong protests: China says relationship with UK ‘damaged’ after interference from LondonJuly 5, 2019
China’s ambassador says relations with the UK have been “damaged” after Jeremy Hunt threatened “serious consequences” over the crackdown on the protests in Hong Kong.
The foreign secretary had been “totally wrong” to criticise events in the former UK colony, Liu Xiaoming said, adding: “This is not a matter about the freedom, it’s a matter about breaking laws in Hong Kong.”
“The UK government stood on the wrong side on the issue”, Mr Liu told an extraordinary press conference in London. “It’s very disappointing when the senior officials of his calibre show support of these law-breaking people.”
And, defending China’s record, the ambassador said: “We all remember what Hong Kong was 22 years ago under British rule: there was no freedom, democracy, whatever.
“We all know that all governors were appointed by the British government, people had no right to elect its officials, no right to demonstrate certainly, and they did not even have a right to have an independent judicial power.”
However, Mr Hunt showed no sign of backing down in an immediate tweeted response, saying: “Message to Chinese govt: good relations between countries are based on mutual respect and honouring the legally binding agreements between them.
“That is the best way to preserve the great relationship between the UK and China.”
Mr Liu was also summoned to the Foreign Office “within the hour”, to be told by its permanent secretary that his comments were “unacceptable and inaccurate”.
Yesterday Mr Hunt reiterated his comments: “The United Kingdom wants to ensure that what was agreed to, back in 1984, is honoured for those 50 years. If that agreement, between the United Kingdom and China, was not honoured then there would be serious consequences. Of course there would be.”
However, he refused to say what those consequences would be: “It’s not smart diplomacy” to spell them out in advance, he told Channel 4 News. But the foreign secretary added: “I made it clear that Britain – one of the oldest democracies in the world – is standing foursquare behind the agreement we reached with China over the future of Hong Kong.”
His comments came after the storming of the legislative council building in Hong Kong this week, on the 22nd anniversary of the territory’s handover to Chinese rule.
Demonstrators daubed graffiti on the walls and draped the British colonial flag, featuring the Union Jack, over the speaker’s podium before skirmishing with riot police outside.
Mr Hunt said: We urge the authorities not to use what happened as a pretext for repression, but rather to understand the root causes of what happened, which is a deep-seated concern by people in Hong Kong that their basic freedoms are under attack.”
China has condemned the protests and demanded that the pro-Beijing executive authority administering Hong Kong prosecute the protesters.
And it criticised Donald Trump after he said that the protesters were seeking democracy but “some governments don’t want democracy”.
Earlier, Theresa May told MPs she had been “shocked” by events in Hong Kong, saying: “The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands who marched did so peacefully and lawfully.”
Last week, former governor Chris Patten criticised the UK’s timid reaction to the violence, suggesting policy was “driven by fear and greed”.