The government has summoned China’s ambassador to register “deep concern” after Beijing ordered the expulsion of four opposition MPs from Hong Kong’s parliament.
Kwok Ka-ki, Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung were banished from the territory’s assembly for allegedly endangering national security.
They were expelled under a new Chinese law banning supporters of Hong Kong independence from holding office.
The action saw the remaining opposition members of Hong Kong’s parliament resign en masse and means the territory’s pro-Beijing government is now effectively unchallenged in the legislature.
The UK government views China’s latest action as part of a campaign to stifle all voices critical of Beijing’s policies.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday declared China’s action a fresh breach of the Sino-British Declaration, the deal that saw Hong Kong pass back to China from Britain in 1997.
The agreement commits China to ensuring Hong Kong enjoys a “high degree of autonomy” and preserves the right to freedom of speech.
Mr Raab said: “Beijing’s imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong constitutes a clear breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration.
“China has once again broken its promises and undermined Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.
“The UK will stand up for the people of Hong Kong, and call out violations of their rights and freedoms.
“With our international partners, we will hold China to the obligations it freely assumed under international law.”
One of Mr Raab’s foreign office ministers, Nigel Adams, later told the House of Commons that China’s ambassador had been summoned in response to Beijing’s actions.
Answering an urgent question, he told MPs: “The permanent undersecretary of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has today summoned the Chinese ambassador to register our deep concern at this latest action by his government.”
It is the third time the UK has judged China to have breached the Sino-British Declaration.
The first was in 2016 and the second was in June this year, following Beijing’s introduction of a controversial new security law in Hong Kong.
The legislation was judged to have been aimed at quashing defiance against the mainland.
Labour’s shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Kinnock said his party “stands in solidarity” with the Hong Kong MPs.
“Their departure leaves Hong Kong without an opposition in the legislature, removing one of the vital checks on the Hong Kong executive and effectively denying the people of Hong Kong the right to choose their own representatives,” he said.
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