British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Tuesday that he expected China to honor the 1984 agreement that would hand Hong Kong over to China in 13 years but would also assign semi-autonomy to the region.
“Hong Kong is part of China and we have to accept that,” Hunt said, adding, “But the freedoms in Hong Kong are enshrined in a joint declaration… There will be serious consequences if that internationally binding legal agreement were not to be honored.”
On Wednesday, China said it had filed an official protest with London over Hunt’s remarks
“He (Hunt) seems to be fantasizing in the faded glory of British colonialism and in the bad habit of gesticulating while looking down on other countries’ affairs,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.
Under the handover deal, British rule in Hong Kong ended in 1997, and mainland China re-assumed sovereignty over the territory. However, under a “one country, two systems” provision, Hong Kong became a semi-autonomous region with its own legal system.
Over the past weeks, the Chinese special administrative region has been the scene of protests over a proposed extradition law.
Though the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended the proposed legislation last month, protests continued with a demand for her resignation and a complete withdrawal of the bill.
On Monday, the anniversary of the handover, groups of mostly young protesters stormed the parliament and occupied the building for hours. Acts of vandalism also occurred.
China denounced the violence and called for an official probe. Beijing has also warned other countries, particularly Britain, against interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs.