HK protests: Jeremy Hunt warns China against ‘repression’
London, July 4 (IANS): British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Thursday again warned China against “repressing” violent protesters in Hong Kong and asked it to listen to the “root causes” of demonstrators’ concerns.
“The way to deal with that violence is not by repression, it is by understanding the root causes of the concerns of the demonstrators that freedoms that they have had for their whole life could be about to be undermined by this new extradition law,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Tensions between the UK and China have risen since Hunt backed demonstrators in Hong Kong who have been protesting against a controversial extradition bill, which critics say could be used to send political dissidents to mainland China.
Violence escalated in Hong Kong when the protesters earlier this week stormed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) and vandalized the interior of the building. Beijing on Tuesday condemned the demonstrators and called on local authorities to restore social order.
Following the chaos, Hunt said on Tuesday that China must “honour” the commitments mentioned in the Sino-British agreement signed when Hong Kong was returned to Beijing as an autonomous region.
He warned Beijing that the UK would always put its principles before commercial interests, as he urged China to honour the “one country, two systems” agreement over Hong Kong.
China had slammed the Foreign Secretary for his “shameless” remarks and said it has formally complained to the UK over Hunt’s statement. Beijing also warned the UK not to “interfere in its domestic affairs” and labelled it hypocritical”.
Hunt ratcheted up the row on Thursday by repeating his concerns and saying the UK was keeping its options open on how it would respond.
“Hong Kong is part of China, we recognize that. We are simply saying that we also have an agreement with the People’s Republic of China and we would expect that to be honoured.
“China is a country that has benefited massively from the application of a rules-based international system. And so to not to honour this very important agreement between the UK and China, of course, would have consequences for China as well as for the UK,” Hunt said.
He described the situation in Hong Kong was “very, very serious”.
China’s Ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said it was “hypocritical” of UK politicians to criticize the lack of democracy and civil rights in Hong Kong when, under British rule, there had been no elections nor right to protest.