China has hit back aggressively at the latest criticism of its Hong Kong policy from the UK and its allies.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded to a statement on Hong Kong issued by the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – also known as the Five Eyes alliance – which expressed “serious concern” after Beijing ordered the expulsion of four opposition MPs from the Hong Kong parliament.
Mr Zhao said: “No matter if they have five eyes or 10 eyes, if they dare to harm China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, they should beware of their eyes being poked and blinded.”
The foreign ministers of the five nations said that a new Chinese government resolution that led to the MPs’ disqualification appears to be “part of a concerted campaign to silence all critical voices”.
The statement said: “China’s action is a clear breach of its international obligations under the legally binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. It breaches both China’s commitment that Hong Kong will enjoy a ‘high degree of autonomy’, and the right to freedom of speech.”
It called on China to “stop undermining the rights of the people of Hong Kong to elect their representatives in keeping with the Joint Declaration and Basic Law”.
“For the sake of Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, it is essential that China and the Hong Kong authorities respect the channels for the people of Hong Kong to express their legitimate concerns and opinions,” the statement added.
“We urge the Chinese central authorities to reconsider their actions against Hong Kong’s elected legislature and immediately reinstate the Legislative Council members.”
Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million people, was promised autonomy over local affairs for 50 years after its return to China in 1997.
Mr Zhao said Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China and that public officials must “be loyal to the motherland”.
The four disqualified MPs were earlier barred from running for re-election because of their calls for foreign governments to impose sanctions on China and Hong Kong. They had remained in office because elections were postponed for one year.
The latest row comes a week after Dominic Raab said the move by Beijing represented a “clear breach” of the declaration.
The Foreign Secretary’s comments drew an angry response from Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming, who insisted the expulsions are “purely an internal affair” for China.
Mr Liu was summoned to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as UK diplomats sought to formally register the Government’s “deep concern” over Beijing’s actions.
Afterwards, he tweeted: “Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong. No foreign country has the right to intervene in the matter.”
At the time, China’s actions were also condemned by the US, the European Union and Australia, with Mr Raab saying the UK would work with its allies to hold Beijing to its obligations under international law.
The FCDO said it regards the latest breach as the third time Beijing has violated the provisions of the Joint Declaration since the handover of the former British colony to China in 1997.
The most recent previous occasion was last year when China imposed national security legislation, giving it sweeping powers to curtail protest and suppress dissent in the territory.
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