Hong Kong’s government has criticised a meeting in London between Britain’s home secretary and a group of activists at which the city’s flag was on display.

A statement took issue with the meeting between activists including Nathan Law and the minister Priti Patel, and said the group had no “official capacity.”

Hong Kong activist Nathan Law (second left) meeting with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel (third right) on Wednesday. Photo: Nathan Law, via Facebook.

“[T]he HKSAR Government strongly deplored and objected to the meeting between a cabinet minister of the United Kingdom and anti-government people from Hong Kong, where the regional flag of the HKSAR was deliberately shown despite the fact that the people have no official capacity,” it read.

“This is clearly yet another provocative act of the UK government….” the statement read.

Law and Patel met on Wednesday, along with members of Hong Kong Watch and Beatrice Li, sister of Andy Li who is one of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained in Chinese waters while trying to flee to Taiwan.

According to Law, Patel said the UK would keep its promise to protect Hong Kong’s rights.

“The United Kingdom will stand by the people of Hong Kong and keep our promise to protect and uphold their freedoms,” said Patel in the meeting.

Law said he thanked the UK government on behalf of Hong Kong people for offering the British National Overseas (BNO) visa plan at a key moment, so that some people could avoid political oppression.

‘Breached international obligation’

The British government is allowing anyone with BNO status and their dependents to live in the UK for up to five years, at which time they can seek permanent residency.

The scheme was a response to the enactment in June of the national security law in Hong Kong, which criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism. Law left for Britain after the act came into force.

File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The Hong Kong government said the visa scheme was offered in total disregard of history and in breach of international obligations.

“When the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed…the UK clearly pledged not to confer the right of abode in the UK on holders of the BN(O) passport who are Chinese nationals in Hong Kong…” the statement said of the 1984 agreement governing the handover of Hong Kong 13 years later.

“If the UK Government deliberately violates its pledge made in the British memorandum associated with the Sino-British Joint Declaration… and insists on using the BN(O) passport or relevant status… for relevant persons to reside and obtain citizenship in the UK, such a move would totally disregard history and breach international obligations.”

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.