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INTERVIEW-UK's Hunt: we expect China to abide by the 1984 Hong Kong treaty

Amanda Ferguson

* Hunt: We stand behind Hong Kong people

* Britain says China must abide by 1984 accord

BELFAST, July 2 (Reuters) - Britain expects China to abide by a 1984 treaty which guarantees basic freedoms to the former British colony of Hong Kong for 50 years, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Reuters on Tuesday.

China has condemned violent protests in Hong Kong this week as a challenge to its rule after protesters stormed and trashed the territory's legislature.

Millions have rallied against a bill which would have allowed people in Hong Kong to be extradited to the mainland to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

China and Britain signed a Joint Declaration in 1984 on the terms of the return of Hong Kong but Beijing has said the accord is a historical document with no practical significance.

Hunt told Reuters during a visit to Northern Ireland: "It is a legally binding document which has force for 50 years. Just as China expects other countries to follow their international legal obligations, the United Kingdom does the same."

Hong Kong was returned by Britain to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including the right to protest and an independent judiciary.

China said on Monday Britain no longer has any responsibility for Hong Kong and should stop "gesticulating" about it.

When asked if China could be sanctioned for events in Hong Kong, Hunt said:

"I hope it won't come up anything like that at all because there is a way through this which is for the government of Hong Kong to listen to the legitimate concerns of the people of Hong Kong about their freedoms."

"... the U.K. stands by internationally binding treaties that we have signed with other countries and have continued to do so," Hunt said. (Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Stephen Addison)