Friday 22 May 2020 2:35 pm

Downing Street says China must respect Hong Kong’s autonomy

Britain expects China to respect the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong and is committed to ensuring its autonomy, Downing Street has said

Beijing has proposed new national security laws which critics argue will erode freedoms and tighten China’s grip over the financial hub.

Read more: FTSE 100 slides as China moves to impose Hong Kong security law

“We are monitoring the situation closely and expect China to respect Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms and high degree of autonomy,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said today.

“As a party to the joint declaration, the UK is committed to upholding Hong Kong’s autonomy and respecting the one country, two systems model.”

China’s ruling Communist Party this morning submitted the controversial draft law, which would ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion”.

The planned legislation, which comes after the region was plunged into turmoil by months of pro-democracy protests last year, also prohibits any foreign intervention in the former British colony.

Foreign diplomats fear the laws could see mainland intelligence agencies set up bases in Hong Kong, posing a threat to the greater levels of freedom secured in the handover agreement.

Hong Kong’s government today said it would cooperate with Beijing to push the laws through, sparking turmoil in global markets. The hub’s benchmark Hang Seng index fell more than five per cent.

Read more: Oil prices tumble as US-China tensions rise over Hong Kong

The proposals also prompted a stern response from the US, with President Donald Trump warning Washington would react “very strongly” if Beijing went ahead with the laws.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the “disastrous proposal” would be the “death knell” for Hong Kong’s autonomy.