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Recently there've been mass protests in Hong Kong over a proposed bill that would allow extradition of fugitives from Hong Kong to China. The proposed bill is seen as a sign that the "One country, two systems" principle agreed to in the Sino-British Joint Declaration was breaking down well before the 2047 expiration date. The UK, former colonial power over Hong Kong, has not been happy either and recently Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned of "consequences" if China breaches the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Questions:

  • Does the Sino-British Joint Declaration include provisions for what happens if one party breaches the agreement?
  • Considering the answer to the above, what could these consequences alluded to by Jeremy Hunt be?
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Nothing would happen. The UK is no longer in a position to threaten a country like China in any way besides some diplomatic grunting, which is very easy to ignore. They couldn't even sanction China properly as this would have massive consequences for their economy, similar to how even the smallest tariff increase on Chinese goods by the US has the potential to threaten the US economy.

That being said, the UK is desperately hoping that they wouldn't "lose face" by having China openly violate their agreement on Hong Kong, which is why the Foreign Secretary is making such statements to the press. Remember that the Sino-British Joint Declaration was negotiated after the Chinese government threatened to capture Hong Kong militarily otherwise, so in many ways it was an admission of defeat on the part of the UK government. As of 2019 they are in an even less of a position to control how Hong Kong is managed by China.

As for the contents of the treaty itself, China has openly denunciated it back in 2017, so the treaty is no longer worth the paper it was written on:

‘The Sino-British Joint Declaration, as a historical document, no longer has any practical significance,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

  • Since this isn't explicitly stated in your answer, is it true that there are no provisions for consequences in the Joint Decleration? – katatahito Jul 4 at 6:57
  • @katatahito answer updated – JonathanReez Jul 4 at 7:26
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    Yep, whilst Britain is in a position to do quite a bit, in terms of having the stumach to suffer the consequences you are right. – Display name Jul 5 at 18:13

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