London: The UK government on Monday began discussions on whether British judges should continue sitting on Hong Kong’s top court following China’s imposition of national security law in the territory and the disqualification of elected legislators that Britain has said is in breach of international law.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had started consultations with the Lord Chancellor and Lord Reed, the president of the UK’s Supreme Court, on the British judges who sit on Hong Kong’s Final Court of Appeal.
Explaining Britain’s decision in this matter, Raab said the Chinese action had led to two “substantive” breaches of international law with Hong Kong and the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which laid out the terms of the territory’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, and which had guaranteed Hong Kong’s high level of autonomy and rights and freedoms.
He said the first was the imposition late on June 30 of the National Security Law, broadly worded legislation that punishes acts of secession, sedition, subversion, and collusion with foreign powers with a life sentence.
The second was a decision earlier this month on new rules for the disqualification of elected Hong Kong legislators, which led to the immediate removal of four pro-democracy representatives and the mass resignation of pro-democracy members a day later.
Raab said China’s action had cast a cloud over its commitment to the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework.
Britain has already opened its doors to allow millions of Hong Kong residents to get UK citizenship and settle there, suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and widened its China arms embargo to include Hong Kong.