G7 urges China to reconsider new Hong Kong security laws
Britain has for the first time persuaded all G7 industrialised nations including Japan to sign a statement expressing deep concern about China’s plans to impose new security laws in Hong Kong.
The Chinese government is due to take the next steps to introduce the laws imminently.
The G7 statement came as UK foreign office ministers signalled for the first time that they may use new UK human rights laws to sanction Chinese officials if Beijing presses ahead with the Hong Kong legislation.
The UK law, which would introduce Magnitsky-style sanctions, has been delayed within Whitehall for months, but ministers have given their strongest indication yet that the laws are likely to apply in cases of repression such as in Hong Kong. The Magnitsky Act authorises the US government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders.
The text of the first G7 statement on Hong Kong does not itself break new ground, but urges the Chinese government to reconsider its plans, recognising that the proposed legislation is in breach of the Hong Kong’s Basic Law and international law.
Japan, which has ambivalent relations with China, has previously backed off signing a joint statement on Hong Kong, but there has been a change of heart in Tokyo over the past week, in part prompted by a growing Japanese perception of the technological threat to Japanese security posed by China.
Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, said last week the G7 bears the responsibility to lead global opinion. He added “Japan wants to take the lead in releasing a statement within the G7 [framework] about Hong Kong affairs based on the principle of ‘one country, two systems’.”
China said it had issued a protest to Japan over Abe’s remarks.
“China has expressed grave concerns to the Japanese side,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference in Beijing. Hua reiterated China’s stance that the security laws are an internal matter, a point China has repeatedly made to the UK.
In a bid to crank up the pressure on the Chinese government before it announces its proposed security laws, the UK home secretary Priti Patel wrote to the prime minister Boris Johnson giving further details of how Hong Kong British National Overseas or BN(O) passport holders, would be given new rights to come to the UK. The offer would apply to both existing BN(O) passport holders, but also the 2.2 million eligible to apply.
As well as proposing a clear pathway to citizenship in the letter to Johnson on 12 June, Patel offered to change the rules, if the law was passed, to allow BN(O) passport holders to enter while the scheme was being set up, even if they expressed an intention to stay for more than six months.
BN(O) holders and their dependants, which Patel suggested should include a spouse or partner and children under 18, would be able to apply for citizenship after five years and would have the right to work or study during that time.
The numbers of Hong Kong citizens willing to leave the city if new security laws are enforced remains to be tested, and Britain is not planning to offer asylum to young Hong Kong citizens at the heart of the democracy movement because only those born before 1997 are eligible for BN(O) passports.