Former British governor: China has betrayed Hong Kong

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Christopher Patten, who served as the final British governor of Hong Kong before it was handed over to China in 1997, is accusing Beijing of betraying the city with a new proposal that would curtail its autonomy.

“What we are seeing is a new Chinese dictatorship,” Patten said in an interview with The Times of London. “I think the Hong Kong people have been betrayed by China, which has proved once again that you can’t trust it further than you can throw it.”

Patten told the publication that the U.K.’s government “should make it clear that what we are seeing is a complete destruction of the Joint Declaration” that transferred control of Hong Kong more than two decades ago.

“Britain has a moral, economic and legal duty to stand up for Hong Kong,” he said. “The real danger is that we are entirely limp on this. We have obligations because we signed the agreement … If we don’t have any responsibilities for the people of Hong Kong and their way of life, who do we have responsibility for?”

The proposal, submitted on the opening day of China’s national legislative session, would ban secessionist activity in the territory as well as foreign interference. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has vowed to “fully cooperate” with the Chinese parliament on the measure.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also sharply criticized the move, calling it “a death knell for the high degree of autonomy” China pledged to grant Hong Kong through 2047.

“The United States strongly urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, abide by its international obligations, and respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and civil liberties, which are key to preserving its special status under U.S. law,” Pompeo said last Friday.

Beijing’s foreign ministry said last week that matters pertaining to the city are internal affairs and “no foreign country has the right to intervene,” according to The Associated Press.

Pro-democracy rallies in Hong Kong, which had waned amid the coronavirus pandemic, have resumed recently. On Saturday, police fired water cannon and tear gas at demonstrators. The protests were initially sparked by a bill introduced by Lam that would have allowed some criminal suspects to be extradited to China.

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