It was Charles, then the Prince of Wales, who flew to Hong Kong in 1997 to preside over the ceremony handing over the previous British colony to China. “Britain is each proud and privileged to have been concerned with this success story,” he stated. “Happy with the rights and freedoms which Hong Kong folks get pleasure from.” Charles vowed that the U.Okay. would preserve its curiosity in Hong Kong and the preservation of town’s values all through its 50-year transition right into a China-governed territory.
Midway by these 5 many years, Charles is about to be topped King in London on Saturday, Could 6. In the meantime, Hong Kong has skilled a pointy crackdown on civil liberties as Beijing more and more exerts management. And the person China is sending to attend Charles’ coronation, Vice President Han Zheng, has been a central determine on this decline.
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It’s already inflicting a stir that threatens to overshadow the celebratory proceedings. The final governor of Hong Kong, Lord Chris Patten, informed BBC Radio’s World at One on Thursday that Han’s presence at Charles’ coronation is a “stick within the eye” for the greater than 160,000 Hong Kong natives dwelling in exile within the U.Okay. Different British lawmakers have described Han’s anticipated look as “outrageous” and “an insult.” Mark Sabah of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Basis stated to the Day by day Mail that permitting Han to attend the King’s coronation is “like inviting your abuser into your individual house.”
Who’s Han Zheng?
Earlier than being appointed as Xi Jinping’s deputy in early March, Han served as a standing committee member within the ruling Communist Get together’s politburo, and he headed the Central Main Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs. Beneath Han’s management, Beijing swiftly expanded its affect over Hong Kong, prompting intense protests in 2019. In response, Han pushed for the implementation of a nationwide safety regulation in 2020 that led to the arrests of activists and critics, an exodus of pro-democracy lawmakers, and a clampdown on the press.
Ryan Neelam, director of the Public Opinion and International Coverage Program on the Lowy Institute in Australia and a former diplomat in Hong Kong, stated Han’s attendance to such a high-profile perform within the U.Okay. shouldn’t be uncommon, particularly given his present position within the Chinese language authorities, for which representing the administration at occasions abroad is without doubt one of the major duties. “I wouldn’t learn an excessive amount of into this,” Neelam tells TIME. “I feel there will probably be some strain from the British neighborhood and teams of ex-Hongkongers, folks targeted on Hong Kong and activists in Britain,” he says, however he thinks it’s finally unlikely to wreck the British-Chinese language relationship—although which will already be at a low.
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What’s the state of U.Okay.-China relations?
Requires Han to be barred from the coronation are unlikely to be heeded. And he gained’t be the one chief criticized for human rights abuses in attendance. Invites to heads of state and different representatives of overseas nations didn’t come from Buckingham Palace however quite from Westminster, and the British Authorities has stated it welcomes all with whom it has full diplomatic relations, solely excluding a choose few like Russia, Iran, Belarus, and Myanmar.
Whereas the U.Okay. and China are essential financial companions, ties between the 2 nations have deteriorated in recent times, notably because the U.Okay. has more and more made strikes to align extra carefully with U.S. overseas coverage that tends to view China’s position and affect in international politics with suspicion. Nonetheless, the 2 sides have dedicated to “interact constructively.”
Concerning Hong Kong, the U.Okay. authorities has not shied from emphatically chiding Chinese language authorities concerning the erosion of civil liberties within the metropolis. In a report launched in January, Britain’s International, Commonwealth, and Growth Workplace stated Beijing’s actions undermine the Chinese language enclave’s autonomy and that “China is diminishing the lifestyle promised to Hong Kong 25 years in the past.” And earlier this week, an inquiry by British parliamentarians denounced the “wholesale decline” of media freedom and the rule of regulation in Hong Kong for the reason that declaration of the nationwide safety regulation. “The present state of affairs in Hong Kong is a evident violation of the [1984 treaty with China] that was meant to protect human rights ensures cherished by the UK Authorities,” the inquiry report states.
In response to criticism about Han’s invitation to the coronation this week, James Cleverly, Britain’s overseas minister, informed BBC Radio that he hopes to make use of the event to satisfy with Han, promising to debate “areas the place we now have factors of criticism.” On Friday, Hong Kong advocacy teams collectively known as on Cleverly to talk explicitly on behalf of Hongkongers—notably these dwelling within the U.Okay.—as an alternative of focusing extra on commerce and funding. “The British authorities ought to make the UK’s nationwide safety and the safety of its residents a precedence,” their assertion reads.
However regardless of how strongly representatives of the British authorities condemn China at numerous different occasions, having Han as a visitor on the coronation leaves a bitter style that some can’t assist however really feel is an intentional transfer by Beijing. “I feel it’s a sign of the truth that regardless of how a lot you grovel to China, and nevertheless a lot you attempt to give them face, they don’t give a toss about giving us face,” Patten stated. “There are, in spite of everything, 1.4 billion of them, and so they selected to ship the man who’s accountable for breaking their phrase about Hong Kong.”
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