Britain warns China if Hong Kong agreement not honoured as Beijing condemns violence


Britain warns China of serious consequences if 1984 Sino-British joint declaration is not honoured, as Beijing condemns violent protests.

Britain warned China on Tuesday that there would be serious consequences if the Sino-British declaration on Hong Kong was not honoured, saying Britain stood behind the people in the former British colony.

"The UK signed an internationally binding legal agreement in 1984 that enshrines the one country two systems rule, enshrines the basic freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and we stand four square behind that agreement, four square behind the people of Hong Kong," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC TV.

"There will be serious consequences if that internationally binding legal agreement were not to be honoured."

Hong Kong leader speaks after police clear protesters
Hong Kong leader speaks after police clear protesters

China condemns violent protests

China has condemned violent protests in Hong Kong as an "undisguised challenge" to the formula under which the city is ruled, hours after police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who stormed the legislature.

A representative of China's Hong Kong affairs office denounced the demonstrators - furious about proposed legislation allowing extraditions to China - and said Beijing supported holding criminals responsible.

The former British colony returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including freedom to protest and an independent judiciary.

Protesters opposing Hong Kong's now-suspended extradition bill shatter glass to get inside the city's legislature building
Protesters opposing Hong Kong's now-suspended extradition bill shatter glass to get inside the city's legislature building

Monday was the 22nd anniversary of the handover.

Beijing denies interfering but, for many Hong Kong residents, the extradition bill is the latest step in a relentless march towards mainland control.

"Seriously violating the law, the act tramples the rule of law in Hong Kong, undermines social order and the fundamental interests of Hong Kong, and is an undisguised challenge to the bottom line of 'one country, two systems', Xinhua quoted a Hong Kong affairs office spokesman as saying.

Umbrellas, hard hats and water bottles were among the few signs left of the mayhem that engulfed parts of the city on Monday and overnight after protesters stormed and ransacked the Legislative Council, or mini-parliament.

Police cleared roads near the heart of the financial centre, paving the way for business to return to normal.

However, government offices, where protesters smashed computers and spray-painted "anti-extradition" and slurs on the walls, were closed.

The government's executive council meeting would be held in Government House, while the legislature would remain closed for the next two weeks.

Millions of people have taken to the streets in the past few weeks to protest against the now-suspended extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

Lawyers and rights groups say China's justice system is marked by torture, forced confessions and arbitrary detention.

The bill triggered a backlash against Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, taking in the business, diplomatic and legal communities that fear corrosion of the legal autonomy of Hong Kong and the difficulty of guaranteeing a fair trial in China.

She has suspended the bill and said it would lapse next year, but protesters want it scrapped altogether and have pressed her to step down.

Ms Lam, Hong Kong's self-styled Iron Lady, has created a fresh crisis for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is already grappling with a trade war with Washington, a faltering economy and tension in the South China Sea.

Regina Ip, chairwoman of Hong Kong's pro-China New People's Party, said the protests had brought shame on Hong Kong.

"In the long term, (this) will impact Hong Kong's business environment. I believe various negative consequences of damages in our economy and prosperity will soon emerge," Ms Ip said.

Chinese censors have worked hard to erase or block news of the Hong Kong protests, wary that any large public rallies could inspire mainland protests.

Screens went black on the BBC and CNN when they showed related reports in mainland China, as has happened during previous Hong Kong protests.

Placards and abandoned items used for a barricade at the Legislative Council Building after protesters stormed the building in Hong Kong
Placards and abandoned items used for a barricade at the Legislative Council Building after protesters stormed the building in Hong Kong

State news agency Xinhua wrote an upbeat Chinese-language report about a government-arranged concert in Hong Kong to celebrate the handover anniversary, complete with descriptions of the audience singing the national anthem and how the performers showed their "ardent love of the motherland".

China also hits out at Trump 'interference'

China on Tuesday also rebuked Donald Trump for a "gross interference" in Hong Kong's affairs after the US president said protesters who stormed the city's legislature want democracy for the financial hub.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the United States should "not in any form support those engaged in violence and breaking the law".

With Reuters, AFP

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