Britain must push for genuine democracy in its former colony Hong Kong, regardless of what China says, the last UK governor of the territory Chris Patten said.
Patten, who oversaw the transfer of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997, disagreed with Beijing’s assertion that the situation in the city no longer concerns Britain, noting that there are binding agreements signed between the two countries, Agence France-Presse reported.
“When China asserts that what’s happening in Hong Kong is nothing to do with us, we should make it absolutely clear, publicly and privately, that that is absolutely not the case,” Patten was quoted as saying Tuesday before the parliament’s foreign affairs committee, which is looking into UK’s relations with Hong Kong 30 years after the signing of the Joint Declaration.
The 1984 Joint Declaration set out the terms of the 1997 handover.
Patten said Britain should not be afraid of clashing with China over the issue, saying fears it would hurt trade ties were unfounded.
Refusing to criticize Beijing publicly “encourages China to behave badly”, he said.
“It’s certainly, in a sense, to spit in the face of the Joint Declaration to say that it’s nothing to do with us — which is what Chinese officials regularly do… The Joint Declaration provides obligations on China to us for 50 years.”
Pro-democracy protesters have been occupying major streets in the territory to seek genuine universal suffrage in 2017.
The former Hong Kong governor said the agreement did not say anything about the method for elections, simply that they would take place.
“It’s probably the case that we never really shared with China what we meant by democratic elections, by fair elections. Maybe we should have been more explicit with the Chinese side,” Patten was quoted as saying.
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