(AA) – Hong Kong’s top politician has snubbed British lawmakers who invited him to give evidence about the handover of power in the territory, one of the parliamentarians said Wednesday.
Richard Ottaway, chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and other Hong Kong officials had declined the invitation to give evidence via video link on the implementation of the Joint Declaration agreement signed by Britain and China before the 1997 handover.
In an article published Wednesday, he told the South China Morning Post: “They refused without giving any reason.”
Last month a visit to the former British colony by the committee was vetoed by Beijing.
The ban was widely interpreted as an affront to the “one country, two systems” formula that is supposed to govern the city and came as pro-democracy activists were camped out on Hong Kong’s streets in protests seen as the biggest challenge to Beijing’s grip on the territory since the handover.
The ban was announced by China’s deputy ambassador to the U.K., a point that, according to the British committee, breached the declaration, which grants immigration powers to the Hong Kong government.
“Barring us from visiting Hong Kong is the clearest breach of the Joint Declaration because it provides a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong,” Ottaway told the newspaper.
“Immigration and migration is the issue for the Hong Kong government to manage. It should have been the representative of the Hong Kong government who came to see me and told us we couldn’t go, not the Chinese government representatives.”
Ottaway said he disagreed with Beijing’s argument that visiting while the protests were ongoing would “pour oil over fire.”
He said: “Since we were banned, protesters in Hong Kong were batoned and pepper-sprayed as police cleared the roads. We have nothing to do with the worsening situation.”
In 1984, Britain and China signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong, under which London agreed to restore Hong Kong to China in 1997 and Beijing spelled out its “one country, two systems” policy.
The two agreed that Hong Kong would “enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs” for 50 years, until 2047.
In July, the foreign affairs committee said it would conduct an inquiry into the U.K.’s relations with Hong Kong to consider how the British government monitors the implementation of the declaration, as well as Britain’s relations with Hong Kong.