The Chinese government summoned the British Ambassador to Beijing on October 20 after London made a “raft of incorrect comments.” This followed the barring of Benedict Rogers, a British human rights activist, from entering Hong Kong.
The barring came 2 days after the British government invited the Chinese ambassador to London over the denied-entry of Rogers, the deputy chair of the Conservative Party’s human rights commission.
Following the deny-entry of Rogers, the British government expressed concern and responded to Beijing with criticism. British Foreign Minister Mark Field stated, “We are very concerned that Ben Rogers, a U.K. national, was denied entry to Hong Kong on October 11, in absolute disregard of the one country, two systems principle,” referring to the formula established by the Sino-British Joint Declaration for Hong Kong when it was transferred to Chinese sovereignty.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said, “We want to ensure that the model of one country and two systems is preserved and continues to operate.”
The Chinese government stated that Rogers’ case was a matter of foreign affairs, which gives China the right to prohibit him from entering Hong Kong, a former British colony. Hua Chunying, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry, stated, “Beijing is responsible for foreign affairs related to Hong Kong. The decision to allow or ban foreigners to enter Hong Kong belongs to China.” He noted that Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal responsibility and that China will not allow foreign governments, organizations, or people to interfere in its internal affairs.
According to the nationalist Chinese newspaper Global Times, Rogers resided in Hong Kong from 1997 to 2002 and often used human rights as an excuse to interfere with Hong Kong’s domestic affairs.
As the deputy chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Rogers actively advocated for human rights in Asia. Earlier, Chinese authorities warned him from travelling to Hong Kong because of rumors that he would visit jailed pro-democracy activists,. While Rogers denied those allegations, he did express his intention to establish an NGO to monitor human rights and democracy in the city, stating, “I think Hong Kong has reached a situation where it needs serious advocacy, particularly in London, because of its responsibility to the [Sino-British] Joint Declaration.”
Under the one country, two systems formula established since Hong Kong was transferred to Chinese rule in 1997, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) retains a high degree of political and economic autonomy, with the notable exception of defense and foreign affairs. Additionally, people in Hong Kong enjoy many rights and freedoms that mainland Chinese do not, such as freedom of expression, and retain numerous features of British rule, such as common law and the legislative council (LegCo).
Relations between Hong Kong and Beijing have weakened in recent years due to the accusation that Beijing is increasingly interfering with Hong Kong’s affairs and violating its autonomy. In 2014, Beijing’s decision to pre-screen candidates for the chief executive of the special administrative region triggered the Umbrella Revolution, in which pro-democracy activists protested against the decision. Since then, Hong Kong has also accused Beijing of influencing the city’s LegCo and court systems, leading to calls among pro-democracy leaders to end the eroding of autonomy.