Britain is “deeply concerned” about China’s proposals to change Hong Kong’s electoral system, Downing Street has said.
“We are closely watching the outcome of the National People’s Congress session and possible changes to the electoral system in Hong Kong,” a Number 10 spokesman said.
“We urge the Chinese authorities to uphold their commitments to the people of Hong Kong.”
The reforms will increase Beijing’s control over local politics in Hong Kong.
It would mean the largely pro-China committee that elects Hong Kong’s leader would also choose a large portion of the legislature to ensure that “patriots” run the city.
At the moment, half of Hong Kong’s legislature is directly elected by voters.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said the city’s government “fully welcomes” the changes.
“There are loopholes in the electoral systems, there are also flaws in the systems in Hong Kong,” she told a news conference on Monday.
“I fully understand that this is not a matter that can be addressed entirely by the government.
“I’m glad that the central authorities have, again, exercised its constitutional powers to help address this problem for Hong Kong.”
Ms Lam did not say what she had said to the central authorities about the electoral changes, but did say that many pieces of legislation in Hong Kong would need to be amended.
She also would not confirm whether legislative elections, already postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, would be further delayed due to the reforms.
Ms Lam said the central government authorities are “very sincere and very committed in trying to move towards the objective of universal suffrage”.
This was promised to Hong Kong under the Basic Law, the mini-constitution that was drawn up when Britain handed Hong Kong to China in 1997.
Such a move would give Hong Kong voters the right to vote for the city’s leader.
Recent months have seen a crackdown on dissent, with most opposition figures – like pro-democracy activists and former politicians – in jail or in exile.
A sweeping national security law introduced in June – which criminalises secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces to intervene in the city’s affairs and terrorism – has led to around 100 people being charged.
Meanwhile, China has summoned Britain’s ambassador to Beijing to make representations over an “inappropriate” article she wrote defending recent international media coverage about the country.
The piece by Caroline Wilson was posted on the official WeChat account of the British embassy in Beijing last week.
In the article she argued that international journalists who are critical of the Chinese government were acting in “good faith” and playing an active role in scrutinising the government.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the Chinese government and people had never opposed foreign media, but are against those who make up “fake news” to attack Beijing and its ruling Communist Party under the auspices of press freedom and freedom of speech.
“The whole article is full of ‘lecturer’ arrogance and ideological prejudice … and is seriously inconsistent with the status of diplomats,” it added in remarks attributed to the head of the ministry’s Europe department.