A diplomatic scandal is brewing between Britain and China. After the Hong Kong separatism law came into force in China, Britain decided to claim the island’s rights. The point is the autonomy prescribed by law, which China has now, in fact, repealed.
On June 30, from 11 p.m. in the special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China of Hong Kong, the national security law came into force, which punishes separatist activities, undermines state power or conspires with foreign states to damage the sovereignty and national security of Hong Kong and, accordingly, China.
This is not the first Chinese law to try to limit the status quo of Hong Kong and its inhabitants. Like many previous ones, the new decree of the Chinese authorities raised a wave of protests and demonstrations in Hong Kong, since the adopted law, in the opinion of the demonstrators and the British side, violates the 1997 declaration of autonomy of Hong Kong.
Under the joint Sino-British Declaration and the Hong Kong Basic Law of 1997, the special administrative region was granted wide autonomy until 2047, which consolidated Hong Kong’s competence in controlling domestic law, the police, the monetary system, duties and migration policies.
This time, the British authorities entered the game quite aggressively, for over 150 years managing Hong Kong as colonialists or tenants. The fact is that the new law entailed many arrests.
Since the law came into force in just the first hour, 10 people were arrested, including a fifteen-year-old girl who had the imprudence to wave the flag of independent Hong Kong.
The next day, July 1, 400 protesters against the introduction of the new Hong Kong law were already detained. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson invited residents of Hong Kong of British descent and their families to obtain a student or work visa in the UK for a period of five years with the possibility of subsequent simplified obtaining of British citizenship.
The proposal, affecting almost 3 million Hong Kongs, which is about 40 percent of the population of Hong Kong, and an unprecedented step in all the time of the British-Hong Kong relations, immediately entailed an official protest from the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in London, alleging violation on the part of Great Britain the basic norms of international law and its right to retaliation.
“China strongly condemns this and reserves the right to take appropriate measures. The British side will fully experience all the consequences. ”
Zhao Lijian, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson
“The UK has neither power, nor jurisdiction, nor any other right to“ control ”Hong Kong,” Zhao Lijian added.
According to Professor Steve Tsang, director of the Chinese Institute at the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), “Beijing must respond decisively, because otherwise Xi Jinping, the chairman of China, will look weak in the eyes of the Chinese, and this is absolutely ruled out.” In this regard, it is likely that China may prohibit the departure of the country to Hong Kong residents who have a British National (Overseas) passport. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said that if China wants to ban Hong Kongers from traveling to the UK, “we can do little to prevent this.” In addition, China, which does not allow dual citizenship for its citizens, may not recognize the British national passport issued by the United Kingdom and, accordingly, may not accept the renunciation of Chinese citizenship by Hong Kongers.
In addition, the Chinese authorities can respond to the actions of the UK and not directly. Something similar happened when, in response to the arrest in Vancouver and the extradition to the United States of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, China kept two Canadian citizens under arrest for a year. In general, Professor Tsang believes that the UK “should not underestimate the creative abilities of Chinese officials in inventing methods of retaliation,” including methods that the British authorities do not allow at all, and one should expect even the most unusual reaction from the Chinese authorities.
The UK is China’s main foreign investment destination, while for the United Kingdom, the Chinese export market is the third largest.
The aggravation of the situation between the two countries may negatively affect the economic component of both states.
Dominic Raab believes that China, which is rapidly gaining weight in the international arena, is unlikely to risk putting its national prestige at stake, especially if the UK takes advantage of its powerful diplomatic or other leverage.