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Jeremy Hunt backs Hong Kong citizens' right to protest Jeremy Hunt backs Hong Kong citizens' right to protest
(12 days later)
The UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has stressed “UK support for Hong Kong and its freedoms” as protesters broke into the territory’s legislative chamber on the 22nd anniversary of the handover of sovereignty from Britain to China.The UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has stressed “UK support for Hong Kong and its freedoms” as protesters broke into the territory’s legislative chamber on the 22nd anniversary of the handover of sovereignty from Britain to China.
The dramatic scenes overshadowed a march of hundreds of thousands of people in opposition to a proposed law allowing for extradition of individuals for trial in mainland China, where the opaque court system is controlled by the Communist party.The dramatic scenes overshadowed a march of hundreds of thousands of people in opposition to a proposed law allowing for extradition of individuals for trial in mainland China, where the opaque court system is controlled by the Communist party.
“UK support for Hong Kong and its freedoms is unwavering on this anniversary day,” Hunt said. “No violence is acceptable but Hong Kong people must preserve the right to peaceful protest exercised within the law, as hundreds of thousands of brave people showed today.”“UK support for Hong Kong and its freedoms is unwavering on this anniversary day,” Hunt said. “No violence is acceptable but Hong Kong people must preserve the right to peaceful protest exercised within the law, as hundreds of thousands of brave people showed today.”
The protests were triggered by a controversial bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where the Communist party controls the courts, but have since evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.The protests were triggered by a controversial bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where the Communist party controls the courts, but have since evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.
Public anger – fuelled by the aggressive tactics used by the police against demonstrators – has collided with years of frustration over worsening inequality and the cost of living in one of the world's most expensive, densely populated cities.Public anger – fuelled by the aggressive tactics used by the police against demonstrators – has collided with years of frustration over worsening inequality and the cost of living in one of the world's most expensive, densely populated cities.
The protest movement was given fresh impetus on 21 July when gangs of men attacked protesters and commuters at a mass transit station – while authorities seemingly did little to intervene. The protest movement was given fresh impetus on 21 July when gangs of men attacked protesters and commuters at a mass transit station – while authorities seemingly did little to intervene. 
Underlying the movement is a push for full democracy in the city, whose leader is chosen by a committee dominated by a pro-Beijing establishment rather than by direct elections.Underlying the movement is a push for full democracy in the city, whose leader is chosen by a committee dominated by a pro-Beijing establishment rather than by direct elections.
Protesters have vowed to keep their movement going until their core demands are met, such as the resignation of the city's leader, Carrie Lam, an independent inquiry into police tactics, an amnesty for those arrested and a permanent withdrawal of the bill. Protesters have vowed to keep their movement going until their core demands are met, such as the resignation of the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, an independent inquiry into police tactics, an amnesty for those arrested and a permanent withdrawal of the bill.
Hongkongers have seen Beijing’s influence grow in recent years, as activists have been jailed and pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from running or holding office. Independent booksellers have disappeared from the city, before reappearing in mainland China facing charges. Beijing’s influence over Hong Kong has grown in recent years, as activists have been jailed and pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from running or holding office. Independent booksellers have disappeared from the city, before reappearing in mainland China facing charges.
Under the terms of the agreement by which the former British colony was returned to Chinese control in 1997, the semi-autonomous region was meant to maintain a “high degree of autonomy” through an independent judiciary, a free press and an open market economy, a framework known as “one country, two systems”.Under the terms of the agreement by which the former British colony was returned to Chinese control in 1997, the semi-autonomous region was meant to maintain a “high degree of autonomy” through an independent judiciary, a free press and an open market economy, a framework known as “one country, two systems”.
The extradition bill was seen as an attempt to undermine this and to give Beijing the ability to try pro-democracy activists under the judicial system of the mainland.The extradition bill was seen as an attempt to undermine this and to give Beijing the ability to try pro-democracy activists under the judicial system of the mainland.
Lam has shown no sign of backing down beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition bill, while Beijing has issued increasingly shrill condemnations but has left it to the city's semi-autonomous government to deal with the situation. Meanwhile police have violently clashed directly with protesters, repeatedly firing teargas and rubber bullets.Lam has shown no sign of backing down beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition bill, while Beijing has issued increasingly shrill condemnations but has left it to the city's semi-autonomous government to deal with the situation. Meanwhile police have violently clashed directly with protesters, repeatedly firing teargas and rubber bullets.
Beijing has ramped up its accusations that foreign countries are “fanning the fire” of unrest in the city. China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi has ordered the US to “immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form”.Beijing has ramped up its accusations that foreign countries are “fanning the fire” of unrest in the city. China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi has ordered the US to “immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form”.
Lily Kuo and Verna Yu in Hong KongLily Kuo and Verna Yu in Hong Kong
Diplomats will be concerned that the Hong Kong executive will use the violence as a reason to impose severe penalties on protesters, including possibly reintroducing the extradition law that was suspended after earlier protests. The UK had been privately pressing for the legislation to be dropped altogether.Diplomats will be concerned that the Hong Kong executive will use the violence as a reason to impose severe penalties on protesters, including possibly reintroducing the extradition law that was suspended after earlier protests. The UK had been privately pressing for the legislation to be dropped altogether.
Speaking before the anniversary protests turned violent, Hunt had said the previous protests made it “even more important to reiterate that the UK government’s commitment to the Sino-British joint declaration is unwavering. It is a legally binding treaty and remains as valid today as it did when it was signed and ratified over 30 years ago.”Speaking before the anniversary protests turned violent, Hunt had said the previous protests made it “even more important to reiterate that the UK government’s commitment to the Sino-British joint declaration is unwavering. It is a legally binding treaty and remains as valid today as it did when it was signed and ratified over 30 years ago.”
Sensitive to criticism that the UK has not been forceful enough in defence of the rights of Hong Kong citizens in recent weeks, he said it was “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”.Sensitive to criticism that the UK has not been forceful enough in defence of the rights of Hong Kong citizens in recent weeks, he said it was “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”.
Hunt last week announced he was calling for an independent investigation into police handling of the demonstrations. He also refused to grant any new export licences for crowd control equipment that could be used by Hong Kong police.Hunt last week announced he was calling for an independent investigation into police handling of the demonstrations. He also refused to grant any new export licences for crowd control equipment that could be used by Hong Kong police.
He said in his statement: “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.”He said in his statement: “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.”
A Foreign Office spokeswoman denied claims by China that the UK was interfering in Hong Kong. “We are co-signatory to the joint declaration, a legally binding treaty deposited at the United Nations. By monitoring its implementation we are acting responsibly in line with our commitments, not interfering.A Foreign Office spokeswoman denied claims by China that the UK was interfering in Hong Kong. “We are co-signatory to the joint declaration, a legally binding treaty deposited at the United Nations. By monitoring its implementation we are acting responsibly in line with our commitments, not interfering.
“Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms and high degree of autonomy underpin its success and prosperity. We will continue to stand up for these principles, including speaking out publicly and raising issues with the Chinese government when we have concerns.”“Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms and high degree of autonomy underpin its success and prosperity. We will continue to stand up for these principles, including speaking out publicly and raising issues with the Chinese government when we have concerns.”
Hong KongHong Kong
Jeremy HuntJeremy Hunt
Asia PacificAsia Pacific
ChinaChina
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