The U.K. denounced China over the arrest of 53 pro-democracy activists on Wednesday, accusing Beijing of breaching the Sino-British Joint Declaration which underpinned the transfer of sovereignty over the territory.
“The mass arrest of politicians and activists in Hong Kong is a grievous attack on Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms as protected under the Joint Declaration,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
The arrests were made under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, which was imposed by China last year and has led to widespread international criticism. In response, the U.K. suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong last July.
U.K. leaders have previously accused China of breaching the Joint Declaration, notably in November when pro-democracy lawmakers were dismissed from the Hong Kong legislature.
“These arrests demonstrate that the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities deliberately misled the world about the true purpose of the National Security Law,” Raab said Wednesday. He said the law has been used “to crush dissent and opposing political views.”
“The UK will not turn our backs on the people of Hong Kong,” Raab added, referring to Britain’s offer of full citizenship to British (Overseas) passport holders, almost 3 million of whom live in Hong Kong.
China’s mass arrests have prompted further international reaction. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said “the law is being used to suppress opposition and critical voices” and China is “moving further away” from its international commitments.
The U.S.’s soon-to-be Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called the developments an “assault on those bravely advocating for universal rights.”
Hong Kong arrests a ‘grievous attack’ on rights and freedoms, says UK The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Politico.