Britain moves to defuse tensions with Beijing over Hong Kong’s political reform
Statement makes no mention of 1984 joint declaration, which stipulated that Hong Kong should enjoy extensive autonomy under the "one country, two systems" principle
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The British government on Thursday said it welcomed Beijing's assurances that it would allow Hong Kong to elect its chief executive through universal suffrage, but failed to mention Britain's treaty obligation outlined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
In a statement, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British government said: “We welcome the confirmation that China’s objective is for the election of Hong Kong’s chief executive through universal suffrage,”
“The UK’s position has always been that the detail of the constitutional package is for the governments of Hong Kong and China and the people of Hong Kong to decide in line with the Basic Law,” the statement read.
“While we recognise that there is no perfect model, the important thing is that the people of Hong Kong have a genuine choice and a real stake in the outcome,” the statement continued. “We recognise that the detailed terms that the National People’s Congress has set for the 2017 election will disappoint those who are arguing for a more open nomination process.”
“We hope that the next period of consultation will produce arrangements which allow a meaningful advance for democracy in Hong Kong, and we encourage all parties to engage constructively in discussion to that end.”
However, the statement made no mention of the 1984 joint declaration, which stipulated that Hong Kong should enjoy extensive autonomy under the "one country, two systems" principle after reunification with the mainland on July 1, 1997.
The response comes two days after Chris Patten, the last colonial governor of Hong Kong, wrote in the Financial Times calling on London to stand up to Beijing as it had a “moral and obligation” to the city, having co-signed the 1984 treaty.
The Chief Executive’s Office hit back at Patten’s comments on Beijing’s reform plan on Thursday, after Beijing loyalist Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai criticised Patten for looking at Hong Kong from a “pre-handover viewpoint”.
On Sunday, the National People's Congress Standing Committee ruled that while Hong Kong could pick its chief executive under "one man, one vote" in 2017, the candidates for the job would be chosen by a 1,200-member nominating committee, which would put forward only two or three who had to win the support of over half its members.
Pan-democrats – who fear only pro-Beijing candidates will be allowed to stand – described the decision as unacceptable, because the nomination threshold was only one-eighth when a 1,200-strong election committee nominated and elected Leung Chun-ying in 2012.