LONDON/TOKYO • Britain, Japan and Taiwan were among those who voiced concern yesterday after China passed a national security law for Hong Kong that threatens to usher in the starkest changes for the former British colony since its return to China.
The passing of the law follows months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which was guaranteed freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland under a “one country, two systems” formula at its 1997 handover.
In London, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain will decide what action to take once it has seen the full security legislation. “Despite the urging of the international community, Beijing has chosen not to step back from imposing this legislation,” he said in a statement.
“China has ignored its international obligations regarding Hong Kong. This is a grave step, which is deeply troubling.
“We urgently need to see the full legislation, and will use that to determine whether there has been a breach of the Joint Declaration and what further action the UK will take,” he added.
Britain and China signed a joint declaration on Hong Kong in 1984 under which the former British territory’s high degree of autonomy, rights and freedoms would remain unchanged for 50 years.
Japan said the law undermined the credibility of the “one country, two systems” formula. “We will continue to work with the countries involved to deal with this issue appropriately,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
He added that Japan will communicate closely with the United States and China, as stable ties between the two were vital for regional and global security.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said he shared the “deep concern” of the international community and the people of Hong Kong over the measure.
Taiwan’s Cabinet condemned the law in a statement.
“The government strongly condemns it and reiterates its support for the people of Hong Kong as they strive for democracy and freedom,” said spokesman Evian Ting.
“The move severely impacts Hong Kong society’s freedom, human rights and stability.”
The protests in Hong Kong drew wide sympathy in democratic and Chinese-claimed Taiwan, which has welcomed people from Hong Kong who have moved to the island and expects more.
President Tsai Ing-wen said she was “very disappointed” by China’s move, adding that it showed the “one country, two systems” formula “was not feasible”.
“We hope Hong Kong people continue to adhere to the freedom, democracy and human rights that they cherish,” she told reporters.
European Union council president Charles Michel told reporters: “We deplore the decision.”
He added: “This law risks seriously undermining the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong and having a detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.”
Ms Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, said the bloc was discussing possible response measures with “international partners” but did not give details.
Two weeks ago, the European Parliament urged the bloc to take China to the International Court of Justice in the Hague if it went ahead with the legislation.