UK Politics

China blocks British MPs' visit to Hong Kong

Demonstrators gather during a pro-democracy rally in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on November 30, 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Demonstrators gather at a pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong

The Chinese embassy has told a group of MPs it will be stopped from making a planned trip to Hong Kong.

Sir Richard Ottoway, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the Chinese authorities of acting in an "overtly confrontational manner".

His committee is examining relations between the UK and its former colony, where pro-democracy activists have been protesting since September.

The demonstrators want elections free from interference by Beijing.

Sir Richard said he had been warned that if he and fellow MPs attempted to travel to Hong Kong as part of the inquiry they would be refused entry.

"The Chinese government are acting in an overtly confrontational manner in refusing us access to do our job," he stated.

'Sensible' visit

Sir Richard added that he would request an emergency Commons debate on the issue.

He told the BBC the committee intended to explore business, cultural and educational links between the UK and China, as well as the protests.

"We are not China's enemies. We are friends and partners. We have every intention of going there in a sensible way," he said.

Sir Richard added: "The real worry about this is that it sends a signal about the direction of travel that China is going on Hong Kong. Immigration is a devolved matter to the Hong Kong authorities, and it's not for China to ban them."

The committee will continue with the probe, he said.

'Regrettable decision'

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the committee was independent of government and described the Chinese decision to refuse members entry as "regrettable".

The spokesperson added: "It is not consistent with the positive trend in UK-China relations over the past year, including the recognition during Premier Li's visit to London in June that the UK and China have considerable shared interests in respect of Hong Kong.

"Nor is it in the spirit of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, concluded 30 years ago. The FCO has signalled this position to the Chinese at the most senior levels.''

Chinese authorities condemned the committee's inquiry when it was announced in September.

The Chinese Foreign Affairs Committee charged its UK counterpart with carrying out a "highly inappropriate act which constitutes interference in China's internal affairs".

But when the Commons committee took evidence from Lord Patten, the former governor of Hong Kong, earlier this month, he criticised British politicians for not doing enough to support democracy there.

Lord Patten said the terms of the 1984 Joint Declaration between the UK and China, agreeing the transfer of sovereignty to China and setting out a "one country, two systems" principle of governance, explicitly gave the UK a "legitimate" interest in Hong Kong's future.

"When China asserts that what is happening in Hong Kong is nothing to do with us, we should make it absolutely clear both publicly and privately that it is not the case," he said.

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