October 31, 2019 / 10:22 AM / a month ago

All sides in Hong Kong must respect autonomy, rule of law: UK minister

LONDON (Reuters) - Hong Kong should seek ways to de-escalate tensions and find a political resolution to its crisis, Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Thursday, calling on both protesters and authorities in the city to show restraint.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is seen outside Downing Street in London, Britain October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Hong Kong has slid into recession for the first time in a decade, partly because of increasingly violent anti-government protests that have been going on for five months and show no sign of abating.

“There must be a meaningful dialogue between all parties, with a credible political track to protect the rights and freedoms set out in Hong Kong’s Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which reflects and respects China’s avowed ‘One Country, Two Systems’,” Raab said in a foreword to a report on Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rule of law is what guarantees its future prosperity and success. It is incumbent on all sides to respect it,” Raab added.

A former British colony, Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the “One Country, Two Systems” formula which guarantees freedoms not seen in mainland China.

The protests rocking the city are partly driven by discontent over a perceived increase in interference from Beijing in the territory’s affairs.

The government in Beijing regards its dealings with Hong Kong as internal affairs and rejects criticism from abroad which it regards as interference.

As part of normal procedures, the British government presents to parliament every six months a report on the implementation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong.

Although the latest report, issued on Thursday, covers only the first six months of this year, Raab’s foreword addressed the events of the past five months, which he described as “one of the most turbulent times in Hong Kong’s recent history”.

“Protesters must end the violence. The police response must be proportionate in their handling of protesters and safeguard the right to peaceful protest,” Raab said.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon. Editing by Andrew MacAskill

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