Referencing the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 which governs the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule, Hunt said on Tuesday that “there will be serious consequences if that internationally binding legal agreement were not to be honored.”
“The UK signed an internationally binding legal agreement in 1984 that enshrines the ‘one country, two systems rule,’ enshrines the basic freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and we stand four square behind that agreement, four square behind the people of Hong Kong,” added Hunt, who is campaigning to be the next British Prime Minister.
China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, followed up with his own criticism, blasting London for its “interference” in Hong Kong and saying the UK-China relationship “has been damaged” because of it.
“I think it’s totally wrong for Jeremy Hunt to talk about the freedom (of Hong Kong protesters) … this is not a matter about freedom it’s a matter about breaking laws in Hong Kong,” Liu said. “We all remember what Hong Kong was 22 years ago under British rule, there was no freedom (or) democracy.”
Liu, who has since been summoned to meet with the UK Foreign Ministry, called on London to “reflect” and “refrain from further damaging the relationship” and “refrain from interfering in Hong Kong internal affairs and Chinese internal affairs.”
Responding to his comments on Twitter, Hunt said that “good relations between countries are based on mutual respect and honoring the legally binding agreements between them.”
CNN’s Milena Veselinovic and Sarah Deane contributed reporting.