Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday Britain should stand up for the rights of the people of Hong Kong after more than two weeks of pro-democracy protests in the former British colony.
Asked about the protests during Wednesday’s Prime Minister Questions, Cameron said, “it is important that democracy involves real choices.” The comments come as Hong Kong’s citizens take to the streets to protest against Chinese restrictions on the 2017 election of the next chief executive.
The agreement brokered when Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 included guarantees on “rights and freedoms, including those of person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, and, indeed, of strike,” Cameron said.
“These are important freedoms, jointly guaranteed through that joint declaration and it’s that which, most of all, we should stand up for,” he added.
Protests have since escalated in the semi-autonomous region. Police arrested around 45 demonstrators early on Wednesday morning, using pepper spray against those who resisted.
Cameron’s comments come after pro-democracy campaigners clashed with Hong Kong police overnight, and footage of police beating and kicking a handcuffed protester was released.
As a result, the BBC’s website was blocked in China on Wednesday, just hours after the video went viral online.
In a statement, BBC director of global news Peter Horrocks said the move “appears to be deliberate censorship.”
“The BBC strongly condemns any attempts to restrict free access to news and information and we are protesting to the Chinese authorities.
“The BBC provides impartial, trusted news to millions of people around the world, and attempts to censor our news services show just how important it is to get our accurate information to them.”
Britain established an inquiry in July this year to look into whether China has fulfilled its promises of democracy for Hong Kong after Britain handed over the colony.
The Hong Kong government and China, however, said Britain has no right to interfere with the details of the election system established by Beijing.
A Hong Kong official has warned Britain of “unintended consequences” if it pursues its inquiry into China’s controversial election proposals. Rimsky Yuen, Hong Kong’s justice secretary, warned the MPs could fuel the Hong Kong protests further.
Speaking in London, he said: “The continuation of the inquiry would attract unintended consequences that might not be in the best interests of Hong Kong. How the various different forces operating in Hong Kong or abroad would try to influence the inquiry or use the results is anybody’s guess.”