British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he is considering whether to withdraw the mechanism allowing British judges to sit on Hong Kong’s highest court in response to what he called China’s attempts to erode the city’s promised autonomy and freedoms.
His comments came in the British government’s bi-annual report on Hong Kong, released on Monday. It describes the imposition of the national security law on June 30 as “a clear and serious breach of the Joint Declaration” which set out the terms of the city’s 1997 handover, and a threat to Hong Kong people’s rights and freedoms.
In the report, Raab said he is looking into when to review with the head of Britain’s Supreme Court “whether it continues to be appropriate for British judges to sit as non-permanent judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.”
There are 13 foreign judges, including eight Britons, among the 17 non-permanent members of Hong Kong’s highest court.
The 29-page document highlighted several perceived breaches of Hong Kong’s autonomy, including the government’s decision to delay the Legislative Council election, the removal of judges on protest-related cases, and the Hong Kong government’s review of RTHK programmes.
The report concluded by criticising China as failing to “live up to its international responsibilities with respect to Hong Kong, by enacting legislation which violates its autonomy and threatens the strangulation of its freedoms.”
Since the implementation of the national security law, former colonial power Britain has extended the immigration rights of Hong Kong BNO passport holders, suspended extradition arrangement with Hong Kong, and extended its arms embargo against China to Hong Kong.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam in a Facebook post called the report a “thorough exercise of double standards,” citing Britain’s own national security agencies and its decision to postpone local elections by a year.
‘Blatant attempt to interfere’
The Hong Kong government in a statement objected to the report’s “sweeping attacks and groundless accusations,” and defended its decision to disqualify four democratic lawmakers.
China described the British report as a “blatant attempt to interfere with Hong Kong and China’s internal matters,” and said the Chinese government had already fulfilled its part in the Joint Declaration 23 years ago. It was time for the British to “wake up and stop making old colonial dreams about interfering with Hong Kong’s matters.”