Published: 09:34, May 15, 2024 | Updated: 12:39, May 15, 2024
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Central govt, HKSAR authorities rebuke UK’s accusations
By Atlas Shao in Hong Kong
Residents protest outside the British Consulate General Hong Kong to condemn the United Kingdom for its unjustified accusations against the special administrative region's trade office in London, in Hong Kong on May 15, 2024, (ADAM LAM / CHINA DAILY)

Authorities from the central government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region condemned the United Kingdom on Tuesday for its unjustified accusations of espionage against the SAR, which especially targeted the SAR’s overseas trade offices.

Yuen Chung-biu, an office manager at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London, along with two other men, were granted bail following their appearance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

They had been detained by British police earlier and were accused of assisting Hong Kong’s intelligence service, for which they face charges under the UK’s National Security Act. Their next hearing is scheduled for May 24.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu stressed at a regular news conference on Tuesday that any unjustified accusation against the city is “unacceptable”.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said that the SAR government has requested the UK government handle the matter impartially without disrupting the London trade office’s operations

The SAR government has demanded the British Consulate General in Hong Kong provide full details of the matter, he said.

Lee reiterated that the role of the city’s economic and trade offices is to promote understanding of Hong Kong’s economic and cultural strengths.

Hong Kong operates 14 such offices globally, with four in Europe, in Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, and London.

Lee said that the SAR government has requested the UK government handle the matter impartially without disrupting the London trade office’s operations.

He noted that any interference with the work of the trade offices contradicts the principles of free trade and free economy, and would adversely affect the local economy.

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Residents protest outside the British Consulate General Hong Kong to condemn the United Kingdom for its unjustified accusations against the special administrative region's trade office in London, in Hong Kong on May 15, 2024, (ADAM LAM / CHINA DAILY)

The Foreign Ministry also expressed grave concerns over the issue on Tuesday.Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin urged the British government to earnestly protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in the UK.

Wang criticized the UK’s recent series of groundless and slanderous allegations against China, such as the presence of so-called “China spies” and alleged cyberattacks.

In a statement on Monday, the Chinese Embassy in the UK strongly condemned the UK’s actions as malicious fabrications and unwarranted accusations against the SAR.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin criticized the UK’s recent series of groundless and slanderous allegations against China, such as the presence of so-called “China spies” and alleged cyberattacks

The embassy accused British authorities of provocation that contravenes basic international norms by harassing, arresting and detaining Chinese nationals under the pretext of judicial and national security.

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

In a separate statement on Monday, the Commissioner’s Office of the Foreign Ministry in the SAR strongly condemned the British government for trumping up charges, arbitrarily arresting Chinese citizens, and slandering the SAR government.

Residents protest outside the British Consulate General Hong Kong to condemn the United Kingdom for its unjustified accusations against the special administrative region's trade office in London, in Hong Kong on May 15, 2024, (ADAM LAM / CHINA DAILY)

A spokesperson for the office called the British actions blatant political manipulations that disregard human rights and the spirit of the rule of law.

The office warned of potential countermeasures if the UK continues interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, convenor of Hong Kong’s Executive Council and the SAR’s former secretary for security,  urged the SAR government to lodge serious concerns with the UK authorities to ascertain whether there are reasonable grounds to target Hong Kong, and to provide legal aid to the Hong Kong people involved

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, convenor of Hong Kong’s Executive Council and the SAR’s former secretary for security, said she was astonished by the UK’s accusations.

She underlined the stringent nature of the UK’s National Security Act, enacted in 2023, which includes broad and vague legal terms.

Ip urged the SAR government to lodge serious concerns with the UK authorities to ascertain whether there are reasonable grounds to target Hong Kong, and to provide legal aid to the Hong Kong people involved.

READ MORE: HK leader criticizes UK’s unwarranted accusations against SAR

Lau Siu-kai, a consultant to the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, warned that the arrests could escalate into “a diplomatic storm” between China and the UK, given the gravity of the charges.

The political academic said he believes that there is no reason for the SAR government to engage in espionage activities against UK’s intelligence or secrets.

Lawmaker William Wong Kam-fai said that the incident demonstrated that the UK uses its National Security Act as a political tool to promote its political agenda, which intensifies concerns over the excessively stringent legal definition of the law.