UK Government rejects the Chinese Government’s assertion that the joint declaration is an “historic document”
A third Urgent Question on Hong Kong was raised on 2 July in the House of Commons by Alistair Carmichael MP following the protest on 1 July in Hong Kong. The Minister of State for the Foreign Office, Sir Alan Duncan, responded to the urgent question and said:
"Of the hundreds and thousands of people who took part in the first July march yesterday, the vast majority of people did so in a peaceful and lawful manner. The UK is fully committed to upholding Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms under the one country, two systems principle; which is guaranteed by the legally binding joint declaration of 1984. We reject the Chinese Government's assertion that the joint declaration is an historic document, by which they mean it is no longer valid and that our rights and obligations under that treaty have ended."
Alistair Carmichael MP asked the Minister whether “the Government will now look at all meaningful sanctions at our disposal, including the possible use of Magnitsky powers, to ensure that those who infringe the human rights of the people of Hong Kong will have no hiding place in the United Kingdom." The Minister said that “[w]hereas we fully agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the joint declaration remains valid—again, I said that in my opening remarks—we are not here to dictate and instruct either the Chinese Government, or that of Hong Kong itself, to do what we believe they should be doing within the autonomy that has properly been granted to them. I am sure the House will appreciate the delicacy of our wanting to uphold the rule of law while having to be careful not to instruct either Government about what they should do in specific detail.”
The Shadow Asia Minister, Helen Goodman MP, asked if the UK government will call on HK government to scrap the extradition bill and “put democratic reform back on the agenda” to correct the democratic deficit in Hong Kong. In response, Sir Alan Duncan said that the decision to withdraw the extradition bill “is a matter for Hong Kong and its Government… With regard to universal suffrage, we believe that the terms of the joint declaration should, of course, be fully upheld.”.
Helen Goodman MP further raised questions on whether the UK government will investigate the three British expat superintendents who are now serving with Hong Kong police and in charge of ordering the firing of tear gas on the protestors and crowd control on 12 June; and if the Government will condemn HK authorities for accessing hospital data records in order to arrest injured protestors after the protest on 12 June. Sir Alan Duncan said that the Foreign Secretary “has already urged the Hong Kong Government to establish a robust investigation into the events of 12 June”.
The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for China, Richard Graham MP, asked if the Minister if the UK Government will “continue to balance strong support for the six freedoms enshrined in the joint declaration with support for the rule of law against violence, and encourage efforts to rebuild trust between the Hong Kong Government and the people of Hong Kong so that that the territory can revert to its peaceful and successful path under the one-country, two-systems formula?”
The Minister of State for the Foreign Office agreed that “the freedoms… [and] the autonomy under the joint declaration is something that must be respected and not in any way diluted.”
Several other MPs, Sir Desmond Swayne, Sir David Evennett, Paul Sweeney MP, asked for UK Government’s action in response to Chinese government’s repudiation on the joint declaration.
Sir Alan Duncan “called on China fully to adhere to the joint declaration” and said while the UK is not in a position to enforce it, the Government “would pursue some resolution bilaterally” if there were to be a breach. He added that the UK Government continues to “speak very forcefully and loudly about upholding the 1984 agreement”.
Watch the full debate here.