“The UK will stand up for the people of Hong Kong, and call out violations of their rights and freedoms,” Raab said. “With our international partners, we will hold China to the obligations it freely assumed under international law.”
Britain has twice before declared China’s breach of the treaty, once in 2016 and more recently following the passage of the National Security Legislation for Hong Kong that makes it illegal to undermine the power or authority of the central government.
Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the UK, was summoned to the foreign office for a dressing down, but the government faced intense pressure from MPs representing parties right across the political spectrum to do more.
Several MPs urged the British government to work with the incoming Biden administration, noting the UK could not challenge China’s increasing aggression alone.
“The Prime Minister has had conversations with the President-elect and I’m sure Hong Kong will feature in future conversations,” Foreign Office Minister Nigel Adams told MPs.
The Hong Kong branch of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that China “strongly opposes defamatory comments by foreign politicians on the decision on Hong Kong”, Bloomberg reported.
Former Conservative party leader and the founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China Iain Duncan Smith said it was time for Britain to show the Chinese government that its actions must have consequences.
“It is time for us to let the Chinese government know these issues come with serious repercussions,” he said.
He called on the government to sanction Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam under new laws where individuals can be sanctioned for human rights abuses.
“We are constantly considering designations,” Adams said, but he added that it would not be helpful to name those being targeted. The United States sanctioned four Hong Kong officials under its Magnitsky legislation earlier this week.
“It is time to do more,” Liberal Democrat Layla Moran said. “What legal routes in defending the joint declaration are being considered?”
Labour’s spokesperson for Asia and Pacific, Stephen Kinnock, backed calls for Lam to be sanctioned.
Alyn Smith from the centre-left Scottish National Party said the government needed to immediately audit Chinese involvement in British infrastructure and the academic sector as well as British companies operating in Hong Kong.
“We’re looking for announcements, those are overdue,” he said.
Britain has previously extended its arms embargo on mainland China as a way to offer a pathway for British citizenship to Hong Kong’s BNO passport holders.
Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.