The late Hong Kong governor Edward Youde pledged before the Legislative Council that the Sino-British Joint Declaration would continue to be binding for both China and the United Kingdom after the 1997 handover, Ming Pao Daily reported, citing Margaret Ng, a barrister and former Legco member.
In order to provide confidence to both Hong Kong and the international community, the key provisions enshrined in the document represent an unequivocal commitment by the two governments to implement the terms of the agreement and its annexes, all of which are equally binding, Ng quoted Youde as saying.
Her remarks came after Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, told legislators on Wednesday that the Sino-British Joint Declaration that led to Hong Kong’s return to China has “fulfilled its historic” mission.
Tam has insisted that Britain has no role to play in ensuring the provisions of the agreement are being implemented.
He said the clause calling for the city’s way of life to remain unchanged for 50 years is a statement made by the Beijing and is not part of its agreement with the UK.
The agreement showed that both China and UK agreed that Hong Kong would “enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs which are the responsibilities of the Central People’s Government” for 50 years — that is, until 2047.
Ng said Youde made himself clearly understood that the agreement remains binding, and as such, the UK has an obligation to ensure that its provisions are being implemented.
Commenting on Tam’s remarks, Ng said the official is nothing but a yesman for Beijing. She also challenged Beijing to state unequivocally whether it believes the declaration is no longer in effect.
Martin Lee, founding chairman of the Democratic Party, said in an interview on Wednesday that the UK can raise the question for discussion at the United Nations Security Council and the British Parliament has the right to put pressure on the UK government.
Pro-Beijing sociologist Lau Siu-kai, who is also deputy chairman of the National Research Council of Hong Kong and Macao, said that while it is understandable for the UK to care about Hong Kong affairs, it should bring its concerns with Beijing through formal channels if it thinks the Chinese side has breached the joint declaration.
As the UK government has never done so, Lau said, he does not think it really cares about what happens in Hong Kong.
The British government remains fully committed to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a spokesman of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said Thursday.
“We believe that Hong Kong’s success is underpinned by its autonomy, rights and freedoms, guaranteed by the joint declaration, which enshrined the commitment of the governments of the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China to Hong Kong’s prosperity, stability and way of life, in accordance with the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” the spokeperson said.
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