Published: 14:14, May 14, 2024 | Updated: 18:01, May 14, 2024
HK leader criticizes UK’s unwarranted accusations against SAR
By Atlas Shao in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu speaks to the media ahead of an Executive Council meeting on May 14, 2024. (PHOTO / HKSAR GOVT)

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Tuesday condemned the United Kingdom for its unjustified accusations about the special administrative region, urging the British authorities to guarantee the normal operation of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) in London.

On Monday, British police arrested three men for allegedly assisting Hong Kong’s foreign intelligence service. Among the defendants are Yuen Chung-biu, who has the same name as an office manager at the HKETO in London. The trio appeared in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

Any interference with the work of ETOs is against the principles of free trade and free economy, and such actions will only bring negative impacts to the local economy, said the CE

 

The three people have been charged with offences under UK’s National Security Act, London Metropolitan Police said. They have been released on bail, with the next hearing to be held on May 24.

At a regular news conference on Tuesday, Lee stressed that any unjustified accusation against the city is “unacceptable”.

He said the SAR government has demanded the British Consulate General in Hong Kong provide full details of the matter, saying that the role of HKETO is to enhance local people’s understanding of Hong Kong’s advantages in economy and culture.

Lee underscored that the SAR government had requested the UK government to handle the matter impartially, and ensure that the normal operation of HKETO in London is not affected.

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Any interference with the work of ETOs is against the principles of free trade and free economy, and such actions will only bring negative impacts to the local economy, Lee said.

The Chinese Embassy in the UK on Monday strongly condemned what it labelled as the UK’s malicious fabrication and unwarranted accusation against Hong Kong SAR.

This undated photo shows the Chinese embassy in the UK (PHOTO / XINHUA)

In a statement, the embassy said that the UK has staged a series of accusations against China, including “China spies” and cyber attacks.

The Chinese Embassy in the UK urged the UK to immediately correct its wrongdoing, emphasizing that any political trick to divert public attention and cover up its own serious problems by smearing China is doomed to failure

“All those accusations are groundless and slanderous,” the statement read.

The British authorities has also harassed, arrested and detained Chinese citizens in the UK under the pretext of judicial and national security and this constitutes a grave provocation against China and severely contravenes the basic norms governing international relations, the statement continued.

The embassy urged UK to immediately correct its wrongdoing, emphasizing that any political trick to divert public attention and cover up its own serious problems by smearing China is doomed to failure.

In a strongly worded statement, the Commissioner’s Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR strongly condemned the British side for what it described as trumping up charges, arbitrarily arresting Chinese citizens and slandering the HKSAR government.

READ MORE: HKSAR govt rejects rights claims of UK, other countries

A spokesperson from the office said under the pretext of national security, the British side had ignored basic human rights and made arbitrary arrests and detentions, which was not only against the spirit of the rule of law, but also a naked political manipulation.

The UK must stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and the nation’s internal affairs, otherwise the Chinese side will take resolute counter-measures, the spokesperson said.

Lau Siu-kai, a consultant with the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said the incident could develop into a “diplomatic storm” between China and the UK as the charges against the trio are serious.

He believes there’s no reason for the HKSAR government to spy on the UK’s intelligence network or secrets.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, convenor of the Executive Council and the SAR’s former secretary for security, said she was surprised and shocked by the UK’s allegations.

She said the National Security Act passed by the UK parliament in July last year is seen as very stringent, with broad and vague definitions. The HKSAR should lodge serious representations with the UK authorities to see whether there are reasonable grounds for them to target Hong Kong or provide legal aid to the Hong Kong people involved.

Lawmaker William Wong Kam-fai pointed out that the legal definitions in the UK’s National Security Act are viewed as too rigorous, and the matter has further shown that the UK has used it as a political tool in its political operations.

He hopes the SAR government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can provide full assistance to the Hong Kong residents involved.