The UK is considering pulling its judges out of Hong Kong’s highest court, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday.
This is the latest response to what the UK considers to be China’s breaches of its international obligations in the territory, reports Reuters.
Britain ruled Hong Kong for over 150 years until handing it back to China in 1997 under a Sino-British Joint Declaration that guaranteed Hong Kong certain freedoms.
The UK now says a new security law imposed on the territory by Beijing was in breach of those agreements.
London has also objected to new rules imposed by mainland China to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong, and to punish political opposition and silence dissent.
“This has been, and continues to be, the most concerning period in Hong Kong’s post-handover history,” Raab wrote.
The Hong Kong government hit back at what it described as “sweeping attacks and groundless accusations” in the report, adding they were “irresponsible remarks”.
The Chinese foreign ministry’s commission in Hong Kong expressed “strong indignation” at the report, according to the official Xinhua news agency. “Wake up and stop the old colonial dream of interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs!”
Following a year of sometimes violent demonstrations, Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in June that punishes what authorities broadly define as secession, sedition and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail.
Raab said he has begun consulting on what to do about British judges who currently sit on Hong Kong’s top court. “I have begun consultations with the president of the UK Supreme Court, concerning whether it continues to be appropriate for British judges to sit as non-permanent judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.”
Western governments and international human rights groups have expressed concern the new law will crush freedoms in Hong Kong.