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China Is Not Legally Bound To Uphold ‘Sino-British Declaration’ Over Hong Kong

Despite pressure from both the US and UK, China is on track to gobble Hong Kong. In the latest development, China has announced that it has no legal obligation to uphold the 50-year autonomy granted to Hong Kong under Sino-Britsh Declaration. 

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China has announced that it has no legal obligation to uphold the Sino-British Declaration of 1984, thus endangering the 50-year promise of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The latest development comes as China is tightening its grip on the former British colony which enjoys autonomy from the mainland.

The Sino-British Declaration laid out the terms for Hong Kong’s handover in 1997 from Great Britain to China. The Chinese government said that the city would enjoy a ‘high degree of autonomy, a statement that lies at the heart of the ‘’one country, two systems’’ framework.

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The same document lists 12 basic policies regarding Hong Kong, including granting Hong Kong’s government executive, legislative and independent judicial powers, which were to be stipulated in the Basic Law and stay in place for 5 decades after the handover.

However, all these promises have come under threat since May 28 after China’s National People’s Congress voted to draft and impose national security legislation for Hong Kong.

The new law bans acts of subversion, secession and terrorism. The law is seen taking effect before the upcoming elections, thanks to a clause in Basic Law which allows Beijing to impose certain laws on the territory without going through its legislature.

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The move by Beijing has drawn criticism from the UK and the US. They claim that Chinese actions in Hong Kong directly conflict with its international obligations under the legally binding Sino-British Declaration.

Additionally, pro-democracy groups believe that the law could be used to crush dissent in the city, such as the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations.

Donald Trump is already preparing to levy fresh sanctions on China for its violation of the Sino-British declaration. Currently, the US Senate is considering the Hong Kong Autonomy Act that would, among other things, authorise sanctions against individuals and entities that “materially contribute to the contravention” of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

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British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that China’s actions would upend China’s ‘one country, two systems’ paradigm, and it would be a clear violation of China’s international obligations. Japan also meanwhile agreed with US and UK concerns and said that the international community needs to treat this as a problem based on international law.

However, China has not budged despite the pressure and threats from the other side of the world.  Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke with Raab over the phone on Monday, telling him that Hong Kong is a domestic Chinese issue and that outside interference would not be tolerated.

With regards to the Sino-British Declaration, China maintains that it has no legal obligation to uphold it and says that policies regarding Hong Kong declared by China in the Joint Declaration are China’s statement of policies, not a commitment to the U.K. or an international obligation as some claim.

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Experts, including those at EurAsian Times, disagree with the statement. Hiroyuki Banzai, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University says that since China states its own policies and London agreed to it, then it no longer is just a domestic issue.

Another professor, Toru Kurata at Rikkyo University in Tokyo believes Japan can play a more active role in convincing Chian to reduce some of its legal authority to crack down in Hong Kong. As tensions in Asia-Pacific escalate, many fear the fate of Taiwan if China successfully takes control of Hong Kong.

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