China fired back in a 500-word statement asserting its control over the city. “Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China,” it said. “How to design and improve its electoral system is purely China’s internal affair and brooks no external interference.”
There was little London could do aside from voicing its displeasure, said Tim Summers, an assistant professor specialising in British-China relations at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“The UK does not have any leverage to do much more,” he said. “There is no chance that Beijing is going to change course on the electoral reforms in Hong Kong because of the views of Western governments.”
China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office also responded to a statement by the Group of Seven nations that expressed “grave concerns” at the changes in the city’s electoral system.
The G7 statement “distorts facts and makes irresponsible comments,” which are in violation of the international law and the norms of international relations, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said Sunday, calling it a “gross interference” in internal affairs.
Hong Kong was a British colony for more than 150 years until its return to China in 1997 after the two countries signed the Joint Declaration. The agreement gave control back to China in return for the city maintaining a “high degree” of autonomy. Yet under President Xi Jinping, China has moved to tighten its grip on the city; the crackdown accelerated after massive pro-democracy demonstrations broke out in 2019.
After passage of the national security law, the UK responded by offering a path to British citizenship for eligible Hong Kong residents.
China’s overhaul of Hong Kong’s legislature will give Beijing virtual veto power in the selection of the city’s leaders. China said the national security law was necessary to punish acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities or collusion with foreign entities. Dozens of opposition figures, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai and former student leader Joshua Wong, have been jailed under the law.