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China refuses British MPs entry to Hong Kong
[LONDON] A group of British lawmakers investigating Britain's relations with Hong Kong have been told China will not allow them into the former colony, the MPs said Sunday.
The Foreign Affairs Committee, a panel of lawmakers who scrutinise the Foreign Office's work, is looking into Britain's relations with the Chinese special administrative region 30 years on from the 1984 Joint Declaration, which set out the terms of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong.
Richard Ottaway, who chairs the cross-party panel, said he would on Monday call for an emergency debate in parliament on the situation.
The 11-member committee, which reports to the lower House of Commons, planned to visit Hong Kong before the end of the year as part of its inquiry.
"The Chinese government have, in past weeks and months, registered their opposition to the inquiry," the committee said in a statement.
The move comes amid continuing protests by pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong who have been demanding the right to choose their own leaders without interference from Beijing.
"I have been informed by the Chinese embassy that if we attempt to travel to Hong Kong we will be refused entry," Mr Ottaway said.
"We are a committee of elected members of parliament from a democratic nation who wish to scrutinise British diplomatic work in Hong Kong.
"The Chinese government are acting in an overtly confrontational manner in refusing us access to do our job." It comes after another group of British lawmakers on Tuesday cancelled a visit to China after one MP who spoke up for Hong Kong's autonomy was not granted a visa.
Richard Graham, head of the All-Party Parliamentary China Group and a former diplomat in Beijing and Macau in the 1980s, was refused a visa at the last minute ahead of a three-day trip.
The Guardian newspaper said Mr Graham had been asked by the Chinese embassy in London to clarify his thinking on China's policy in Hong Kong after a parliament debate last month.
It also comes after it was announced Thursday that Prince William will visit China in March on behalf of the British government.
The tour by the 32-year-old prince, second in line to the throne, is being viewed in British newspapers as an attempt to improve top-level diplomatic relations with Beijing.
In Hong Kong, protesters have demonstrated in the streets for two months, demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous city in 2017.
Earlier this month, the Foreign Affairs Committee questioned Chris Patten, the governor who oversaw the transfer of Hong Kong from British to Chinese sovereignty.
He rejected Beijing's assertions that Hong Kong's political situation was no longer anything to do with London, citing binding agreements signed between the countries.
"The Joint Declaration provides obligations on China to us for 50 years," he said.