Chinese police have arrested 47 pro-democracy campaigners and politicians after they organised an informal primary last July to select the most popular candidates to stand for election in Hong Kong’s Congress.
Now Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned Beijing’s decision and said it was “another deeply disturbing step”.
Mr Raab said: “The decision to charge 47 Hong Kong politicians and activists for conspiracy to commit subversion under the National Security Law is another deeply disturbing step.
“The National Security Law violates the Joint Declaration, and its use in this way contradicts the promises made by the Chinese government, and can only further undermine confidence that it will keep its word on such sensitive issues.”
The European Union’s office in Hong Kong said the charges made clear “legitimate political pluralism will no longer be tolerated in Hong Kong”.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both accused Chinese authorities of using the national security law to silence critics and called for the charges to be dropped.
Jimmy Sham, a key organiser of the 2019 protests, said they would remain strong and continue fighting.
He said: “Democracy is never a gift from heaven.
“It must be earned by many with strong will.
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It allowed mainland security and intelligence agencies to be stationed in the city for the first time.
The plan for the legislation followed months of often violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam accused foreign critics of displaying “blatant double standards” over Beijing’s decision.
Following talks with officials in Beijing, Miss Lam said China had the same right as Britain and the US to enact legislation protecting its national security and said foreign criticism and threats of sanctions could not be justified.
She also said China was compelled to take the step at the national level because the opposition in Hong Kong’s own legislature and among government critics made it impossible to do so locally.
Miss Lam said: “I can only say that the international community and some of the foreign governments have been adopting blatant double standards in dealing with this matter and commenting on this matter.
“It is within the legitimate jurisdiction of any country to enact laws to protect and safeguard national security.
”USA is no exception. UK is no exception.
“So why should they object, resist or even condemn and take their sanctions against Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China for taking similar actions?”