China summons British embassy officials in Beijing over ‘raft of incorrect comments’ after UK activist barred from Hong Kong
Foreign ministry spokesman says it is ‘within China’s sovereignty to decide who is allowed to enter the country’
China on Friday summoned officials from the British embassy in Beijing in a tit-for-tat protest stemming from Hong Kong’s denial of entry to a British human rights activist.
The Chinese government decried “a raft of incorrect comments” coming out of London in recent days, in signs of increasingly strained Sino-British ties.
Benedict Rogers was refused entry to the city upon arrival at Hong Kong International Airport on October 11. He was then put on a plane to Thailand, where he had just come from, and returned to London.
He is deputy chairman of the British Conservative Party’s human rights commission and has long campaigned for rights and freedoms in Asia. He said Chinese representatives in Britain had earlier indirectly warned him against travelling to the city, fearing he would visit jailed pro-democracy activists, although he denied having such intentions.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday that Britain wanted to ensure the preservation of the “one country, two systems” model, under which Beijing guarantees Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for half a century.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang replied: “It is within China’s sovereignty to decide who is allowed to enter the country. China has summoned officials of the British embassy in Beijing to lodge a solemn representation in relation to a raft of incorrect comments by Britain.
“I must stress Hong Kong’s affairs are part of China’s internal affairs. China forbids any overseas governments, organisations or people from interfering in China’s internal affairs.”
British Foreign Office minister Mark Field, who oversees the country’s Asian affairs, said earlier that the ministry was “very concerned” about the Rogers case, and that the refusal of entry was in “absolute disregard of the one country, two systems principle”.
One country, two systems is the governing formula under which Beijing has run Hong Kong since the city was handed from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Under it, the city is entitled to certain freedoms not enjoyed by people on the mainland.
Britain earlier mounted a robust response to the immigration furore, with Field writing to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to express concern. And the British Foreign Office summoned Beijing’s representative in London to answer questions about the decision.
Rogers said his lawyers in Hong Kong had sent a letter to the local government demanding an official explanation for the decision to bar him from the city.