British report says Hong Kong’s national security law intended to “significantly restrict freedom”

A British report on Hong Kong shows that Beijing has violated its legal obligations, undermined Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, and used national security laws to “significantly restrict Hong Kong’s freedom in this global financial center.”

The report covers the six-month period from July to December 2020. In a foreword to the report, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said a sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last June was used to stifle political opposition.

Raab said Beijing was in “clear violation” of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed by then Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which guaranteed Hong Kong’s broad freedoms.

The report criticized Beijing’s reforms of Hong Kong’s electoral system, the Justice Department’s decision to prosecute and the controversial national security law.

Raab said, “So we are now declaring that China is in a state of non-compliance with the Joint Declaration.” He added that, as Beijing has said, the national security law is not being used to target a small group of criminals.

In a statement released Thursday, Raab said, “Instead, it is being used to dramatically restrict the space for the expression of alternative political views and to prevent free speech and legitimate political debate.”

The Hong Kong government pushed back on what it called “inaccurate statements” that could not be “further from the truth and are clearly a double standard.”

A Hong Kong government spokesman said, “Any objective person would see that since the implementation of Hong Kong’s national security laws, stability, which is vital to business activity, has been restored to the community and national security has been maintained.”

Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in June that punishes authorities for what it broadly defines as secession, sedition and collusion with foreign powers, with a maximum penalty of life in prison, following a year of sometimes violent demonstrations.

Western governments and international human rights groups have expressed concern that the law would stifle Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Britain, which ruled Hong Kong for more than 150 years before it was handed back to China in 1997, said the national security law violated the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that paved the way for Hong Kong’s handover.