UK says new Hong Kong security Bill breaches handover deal


LONDON: Hong Kong’s new security legislation breaches its international obligations including the handover deal signed by the UK and China, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said.

The legislative proposals will inhibit freedom of speech, expression and the press, Cameron said in a statement Wednesday (Feb 28). He also cited concerns over the risk of work done by international organisations in Hong Kong being labelled "foreign interference,” provisions that threaten diplomatic and consular activity and an absence of reference to independent oversight.

Hong Kong chief executive John Lee formally proposed legislation on Jan 30, with a one-month consultation period, to pass the city’s own security law, including stepped-up efforts to ward against foreign interference.

The law would cover offences including treason, sedition, and digital acts that endanger national security. It’s additional to the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 that silenced dissent and wiped out many activist groups.

"My officials have raised our concerns privately with the Hong Kong authorities and through the public consultation process,” Cameron said, adding that he "strongly” urged the government there to "re-consider their proposals and engage in genuine and meaningful consultation with the people of Hong Kong.”

Cameron also cited concerns about a lack of clarity on procedures to govern detention without charge, the absence of a judicial oversight mechanism and a failure to include "independent and robust mechanisms to safeguard against arbitrary action by the executive on national security grounds.”

The US this week also said it is closely monitoring the development of national security legislation in Hong Kong, along with the implications for American citizens, investments and companies operating there.

"Enacting additional national security legislation with vaguely defined provisions and purported extraterritorial reach would further violate the China’s international commitments,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

China tore into Cameron’s remarks hours later, with its embassy in London saying in a statement that the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the 1984 agreement on the handover of Hong Kong, "didn’t give the UK any qualifications or rights to interfere in Hong Kong affairs.”

"The so-called concerns from the UK are full of bias and totally groundless,” the Chinese embassy added.

"Britain’s National Security Act, instead, is extremely vulnerable to abuse with vague concepts and broad authorization for law enforcement agencies. The British side should reflect on itself instead of pointing fingers at others.” - Bloomberg

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Hong Kong , UK , security , bill , Cameron , handover , deal

   

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