The British government says it's reviewing whether to continue allowing British judges to sit on Hong Kong's top court as it again accused Beijing of breaching its commitments to the SAR.
Britain's Foreign Office made the remarks on Monday in a six-monthly report that looks into the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in the SAR. The report covers the period to the end of June, immediately before Beijing imposed its National Security Law in Hong Kong.
"The National Security Law was imposed in direct conflict with Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which affirms that Hong Kong should bring forward its own national security legislation," British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.
"It violates the high degree of autonomy of executive and legislative powers and independent judicial authority, provided for in paragraph 3 of the Joint Declaration."
And as he stressed that London is committed to upholding the SAR's rights and freedoms, Raab divulged that he was discussing withdrawing British judges from their duties as non-permanent members of the Court of Final Appeal.
"Together with the Lord Chancellor, I have begun consultations with Lord Reed, President of the UK Supreme Court, concerning when to review whether it continues to be appropriate for British judges to sit as non-permanent judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal."
His remarks come just over a month after the deputy president of the British Supreme Court, Lord Patrick Stewart Hodge, was appointed to the CFA.
The top UK judge was replacing former Australian judge James Spigelman, who resigned from the Court of Final Appeal, telling Australian media that he was stepping down for reasons “related to the content of the national security legislation”.
The Hong Kong government has rejected accusations that judicial independence has diminished, saying that the presence of 14 senior judges from Britain, Canada and Australia on the top court is a manifestation of this.
Raab also hit out at Beijing over the disqualifications of four pro-democracy lawmakers, saying that's another formal breach of the Joint Declaration by the central government.
He stressed that Britain will continue to "defend the rights of the people of Hong Kong" and it is on track to launch a new visa on January 31 next year that will allow Hong Kongers with British National (Overseas) status and their immediate family to live and work in Britain for up to five years.