15 November 2019
Hugo Swire stressed the parliamentary committee's independence from the British government in his efforts to obtain visas for the MPs. Photo: Facebook
Hugo Swire stressed the parliamentary committee's independence from the British government in his efforts to obtain visas for the MPs. Photo: Facebook

China broke agreement with Britain, say British MPs

China has broken its agreement with Britain to let Hong Kong govern its own borders for at least 50 years, the Guardian quoted senior members of Parliament as saying Tuesday.

In an emergency debate in the House of Commons, MPs from all parties called on the government to condemn China after it refused a parliamentary delegation entry to the former British colony.

The MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee had been hoping to investigate the governance of Hong Kong as part of a parliamentary inquiry into Hong Kong’s relations with Britain 30 years after the joint declaration that led to its handover to China in 1997.

Under the 1984 Sino-British Declaration, Hong Kong has the right to a degree of autonomy.

However, Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dismissed British objections to the ban as useless and said Beijing has responsibility for who is allowed into Hong Kong.

“China’s opposition to any foreign government, organisation or individual interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs in any form is resolute,” Hua told a daily news briefing, Reuters reported.

“If certain people in Britain still want to keep on like this, it is not only irrational and useless but like lifting up a rock to drop it on one’s foot.”

She said the MPs were not planning to visit Hong Kong to conduct “a normal, friendly visit but to carry out a so-called investigation on Chinese territory”.

“We do not need any foreign lawmakers to carry out probes. I hope they can clearly see this basic reality,” she said.

MPs have reacted with fury to the decision, saying it is unprecedented in the history of trips by Foreign Affairs Committee members to countries such as Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.

During the lengthy debate, Richard Ottaway, the chairman of the committee, said the move “would only harm China’s reputation and financial interest in an increasingly global world”.

A range of senior politicians who have chaired select committees also lined up to criticise China’s decision, the Guardian said.

John Stanley, a senior Conservative, said he was “disappointed” with the reaction of the Foreign Office for only saying the ban was “regrettable”.

Labor MP Gerald Kaufman said trade was important but “so is morality”, as he called for Britain to take a stronger stance, even at the expense of business with China.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman has said the decision is a “mistaken one” and “counterproductive because it only serves to amplify concerns about the situation in Hong Kong, rather than diminishing concerns”.

Hugo Swire, the Foreign Office minister with responsibility for China affairs, met senior Chinese Communist party official Guo Yezhou in London in an effort to persuade Beijing to grant the MPs visas.

Swire emphasised that the parliamentary committee was independent from the government and that the proposed visit did not therefore amount to the British government meddling in China’s internal affairs.

Britain and China have been seeking to repair ties that have been strained since Cameron met the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, in 2012.

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