The Chinese regime has been using the National Security Law to “drastically curtail” the freedom of expression, the UK government said in its latest six-monthly report on the situation in the former British colony.
In a foreword in the report, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “China has broken 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 UK government declared the Chinese regime to be “in a state of ongoing non-compliance” with the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed by then Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that guaranteed wide-ranging freedoms for Hong Kong for at least 50 years.
Of particular concern has been the draconian National Security Law imposed by the Chinese regime on Hong Kong in June 2020, which criminalizes individuals for any acts of subversion, secession, and collusion with foreign forces against the Chinese Communist Party, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Raab said in the foreword: “The National Security Law is not being used for its original purpose, as stated by Beijing, to target just ‘a tiny number of criminals who seriously endanger national security.’
“Rather it has been used to drastically curtail the space for the expression of alternative political views and deter freedom of expression and legitimate political debate.
“We are now seeing the effects of a law with loosely defined provisions, backed up with the threat of potentially long jail sentences and transfer of cases to mainland China for prosecution and sentencing.”
Raab said the situation has been “deeply concerning” but the UK has “stood up for its values and for the people of Hong Kong.”
In January, Britain launched a new visa scheme for British National (Overseas) status holders, which allows them to live, study, and work in the UK for five years and eventually apply for citizenship.
There were 34,000 applications from Hong Kong residents to live in Britain in the first three months of the year, according to the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.
At a routine press briefing in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin condemned the British report, which he said was “full of ideological bias.”
He said the National Security Law had helped Hong Kong “regain stability and return to the right track.”
Wang urged the UK to “let go of its old colonial dream” and “stop meddling in China’s domestic affairs including Hong Kong affairs.”