HONG KONG (AP) — The last British governor of Hong Kong said China has betrayed the semi-autonomous territory by tightening control over the city it had promised could keep freedoms not found on the mainland.
“What we are seeing is a new Chinese dictatorship,” Chris Patten told an interview with The Times of London. “I think the Hong Kong people have been betrayed by China, which has proved once again that you can’t trust it further than you can throw it.”
He said the British government “should make it clear that what we are seeing is a complete destruction of the Joint Declaration,” a legal document under which the former British colony was returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework.
It gives Hong Kong its own legal system and Western-style freedoms until 2047. But many fear those are being chipped away after authorities clamped down on massive pro-democracy protests that rocked the city last year.
Last week, Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers sharply criticized China’s move to enact national security legislation in the territory, which was submitted on the opening day of China’s national legislative session. It would forbid secessionist and subversive activity, as well as foreign interference and terrorism.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the move “a death knell for the high degree of autonomy” that Beijing had promised Hong Kong.
Patten told Times he believed that “one country, two systems,” the treaty logged at the United Nations, would be enough to protect Hong Kong’s capitalist economy and its way of life.
“China cheats, it tries to screw things in its own favor, and if you ever point this out their ‘wolf warrior’ diplomats try to bully and hector you into submission,” he said. “It’s got to stop otherwise the world is going to be a much less safe place and liberal democracy around the world is going to be destabilized.”
He called on Britain to do more to stand up to China and protect Hong Kong under its legal obligations.
“Britain has a moral, economic and legal duty to stand up for Hong Kong,” he said. “The real danger is that we are entirely limp on this. We have obligations because we signed the agreement … If we don’t have any responsibilities for the people of Hong Kong and their way of life, who do we have responsibility for?”
China has criticized Patten’s comments before. China’s foreign ministry said last week Hong Kong is China’s internal affair and “no foreign country has the right to intervene.”