June 11, 2020 / 9:29 AM / a month ago

Only Hong Kong can solve unrest, British foreign minister says

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government has said any solution to the unrest in Hong Kong must come from the former colony itself and not from Beijing, and it urged China to reconsider a new security law that has sparked renewed protests.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State for Foreign affairs Dominic Raab leaves Downing Street in London, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain, along with the United States, Australia and Canada, has criticised China for the new law, saying it would breach the 1984 Sino-British agreement on Hong Kong and threaten its freedoms.

China has said its decisions on national security in Hong Kong were its own affair and that Britain’s link to the territory stemmed from “aggressive colonization and unequal treaties”.

In a six-monthly report on Hong Kong, covering events from July 1 to Dec. 31 last year, foreign minister Dominic Raab said: “The solution to this unrest and its underlying causes must come from Hong Kong, and cannot be imposed from mainland China.

“Britain says the way through the current situation in Hong Kong is clear: all sides must invest in dialogue and reconciliation, underpinned by a robust, independent inquiry.”

Hong Kong’s autonomy was guaranteed under the “One country, two systems” agreement enshrined in the 1984 agreement signed by then Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Hong Kong was rocked by months of pro-democracy demonstrations last year, some of which turned violent, over an unsuccessful bid to introduce a law governing extradition to China. Protests have broken out again after a lull during the coronavirus epidemic.

Britain has pledged to give British National Overseas passport-holders in Hong Kong a path to British citizenship, allowing them to settle in the United Kingdom.

There are about 350,000 holders of BNO passports in Hong Kong and a further 2.5 million are eligible for them, the British government has said.

“There is still time for China to re-consider, to step back from the brink and respect Hong Kong’s autonomy and respect its own international obligations,” Raab wrote in a foreword to the report, which, he said, addressed subsequent events after the period of Dec. 31.

Reporting by Kate Holton and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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