LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has refused to rule out sanctions on China, as he is keeping his "options open" over how the United Kingdom could respond to developments in Hong Kong.
In an interview with the BBC on Thursday (Jul 4), Hunt also repeated a warning he made on Tuesday, saying there would be "consequences" if Beijing breached commitments it made about rights in Hong Kong stipulated in the handover agreement.
"What I wanted to do was to make the point clearly that this isn't something that we would just gulp and move on - this would be a very serious issue for the UK," he said.
The city was a British colony until it was returned to China in 1997 under a handover agreement that guaranteed the territory certain levels of autonomy and freedoms unseen on the mainland.
That "one country, two systems" deal is at the centre of the row between London and Beijing, as anti-government protests over the controversial extradition Bill reached an unprecedented level on Monday, with a group of protesters briefly occupying Hong Kong's Legislative Council building.
Hunt said that authorities had to deal with the root causes of the protests over the extradition Bill, while maintaining that there was no reason why good relations between Britain and China could not continue.
He also repeated on Thursday that he does not support the violent protesters who stormed Hong Kong's parliament, but said they should not be dealt with by "repression".
"We're just asking very simply for that (Hong Kong handover) agreement that we have with China from 1984 to be honoured," he said.
Meanwhile, Chinese official English-language newspapers blamed meddling by Western governments on Thursday for the unrest in Hong Kong.
"Ideologues in Western governments never cease in their efforts to engineer unrest against governments that are not to their liking, even though their actions have caused misery and chaos in country after country in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia," the state-run China Daily said in an editorial.
"Now they are trying the same trick in China."