Jeremy Hunt has used the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to affirm Britain’s support for the One Country, Two Systems relationship between the autonomous territory and China.
The Foreign Secretary said a surge of protests in Hong Kong has made it “even more important” to reiterate the UK Government’s commitment to Sino-British Joint Declaration, originally agreed in 1984.
“It is imperative that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, and the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people, are fully respected in line with the Joint Declaration and the Hong Kong Basic Law,” Mr Hunt said.
“We have made our position on this clear to the Chinese Government, both publicly and in private, and will continue to do so.”
The Conservative Party leadership hopeful said his office would “continue to closely monitor” events in the territory, where more protests are expected on Monday, the 22nd anniversary of the end of British colonial rule in Hong Kong.
“We strongly believe that upholding One Country, Two Systems is the best way to ensure Hong Kong continues to play a vital role for China, and to continue its role and reputation as a global financial and trading centre for the rest of the world.”
On Sunday more than 50,000 people rallied in support of Hong Kong police, who have been criticised for using tear gas and rubber bullets during clashes with demonstrators that left dozens injured on June 12.
A protest march has been called for Monday, the third in three weeks.
The anniversary always draws protests but this year it is expected to be larger than usual because of widespread opposition to a Government proposal to allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China to face charges.
More than one million people took to the streets in two previous marches in June, organisers estimate.
The proposal has awakened broader fears China is eroding the freedoms and rights Hong Kong is guaranteed for 50 years after the handover under a “one country, two systems” framework.
The Government has already postponed debate on the extradition bill indefinitely, leaving it to die, but protest leaders want the legislation formally withdrawn and the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader, chief executive Carrie Lam.
They also are demanding an independent inquiry into police actions on June 12.