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News / Nation & World

UK official visits Hong Kong after years of strained ties

By KANIS LEUNG, Associated Press
Published: May 9, 2023, 9:51am

HONG KONG — The first British minister visiting Hong Kong in five years said his country will not “duck” its historic responsibilities to people living in its former colony while engaging with China in areas they share common interests.

The remarks by Dominic Johnson, minister of state in the Department for Business and Trade, were published in an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post on Tuesday. He wrote that the U.K. will be clear about its right to act when China breaks its international commitments or abuses human rights.

Johnson’s trip this week came after relations between Hong Kong and Britain became increasingly tense following the enactment of a Beijing-imposed national security law, which the U.K. earlier called “a clear breach” of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The declaration included a promise to retain Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms for 50 years after it was returned to China’s rule in 1997.

Following the introduction of the sweeping security law in 2020, 105,200 residents have started new lives in Britain via a special visa that allows them to live and work in the U.K. and apply for British citizenship after six years, according to U.K. official data.

Johnson said his trip included meetings with the city’s leading investors and government officials to foster investment ties between both sides. He tweeted on Monday that he met with CK Hutchison chairman Victor Li, the elder son of tycoon Li Ka-shing, to discuss their investment plans in Britain.

In another tweet, he said he also talked to Christopher Hui, Hong Kong’s secretary for financial services and the Treasury, on their works to remove market barriers and increase trade between both sides.

“I’m in Hong Kong as part of my mission to promote the UK as a leading destination for investment and trade,” he wrote on Twitter.

The British consulate in Hong Kong said the visit would allow Johnson to reengage on dialogue including trade and investment, clean growth and future bilateral visits, in addition to promoting collaboration between Hong Kong and the U.K. after the COVID-19 pandemic and the imposition of the security law.

His visit also includes a meeting with Hong Kong Commerce Minister Algernon Yau, a lunch with some members of the British Chamber of Commerce and a visit to local tech hub Cyberport, it added. Johnson is slated to conclude his trip on Tuesday evening.

When asked about Johnson’s visit, Hong Kong leader John Lee said he welcomed any foreign officials to visit Hong Kong and encourage the promotion of economic development, commercial exchanges and people-to-people relationship. Lee said the city’s success is built on regional and international cooperation.

“It’s just some countries make some moves to meet their political interest, perhaps due to political reasons,” he said, without identifying any countries.

He added he hoped all will act pragmatically in their cooperation and policies for development and the benefits of their people.