A British Foreign Office minister has urged Hong Kong’s pan-democrat lawmakers to accept Beijing’s political reform framework, saying it is “better than nothing”.
Hugo George William Swire, a Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and member of the British Conservative Party, gave his advice during a low-profile meeting with several lawmakers in Hong Kong on Thursday last week, Ming Pao Daily reported.
Civic Party leader Alan Leong, who was present at the meeting, assailed Swire’s position and called it improper.
He said Britain has the moral obligation to help Hong Kong people in their campaign for genuine universal suffrage, but they could no longer rely on the British as they had apparently given up the fight.
Pro-establishment lawmakers supported Swire’s views.
They said Swire was aiming for two things by adopting such a stance. One is that Britain hopes to gain more economic benefits from China as a result of the goodwill gesture.
Another is that Beijing’s framework will allow all qualified Hong Kong voters to choose the next chief executive, and candidates will have no choice but to respond to the people’s demand for democracy.
Such a stance is unlikely to anger Beijing, independent lawmaker Paul Tse said.
On Tuesday Swire also testified at the hearing of the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, which is holding an inquiry into the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which stipulates the “one country, two systems” and other principles governing for the handover of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
In his testimony, Swire said the political reform framework set by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in August last year should be accepted despite its imperfections as it allows universal suffrage and benefits the people of Hong Kong.
Swire also wrote an article published in Hong Kong in 2013 supporting the call for universal suffrage that gives people a real choice.
He said “Britain is ready to provide support at any time”, a statement that prompted Beijing to warn him against interference in China’s internal affairs.
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