Hong Kong authorities dismissed Tuesday a threat by the UK to withdraw jurists on loan to Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal.
They refuted claims by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that the longstanding practice of sending UK judges to serve on the city's top court may become a thing of the past if China doesn't loosen its grasp over Hong Kong's legislative and legal institutions.
Hong Kong declared Tuesday "the so-called 'response' taken by the UK government represented a breach of international obligations."
The UK "must wake up from its colonial nostalgia," representative for the office of China's Foreign Affairs Commissioner Xie Feng said in a Tuesday statement.
In a government report published late Monday, the UK threatened to punish China's repeated violations of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. "China has failed to live up to its international obligations with respect to Hong Kong," Raab said in the latest edition of his office's bi-annual report on the city.
"I have begun consultations with Lord Reed, president of the UK Supreme Court, concerning when to review whether it continues to be appropriate for British judges to sit as nonpermanent judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal," Raab said.
Nine of the 13 overseas nonpermanent judges currently on the Court of Final Appeal are from the UK and their removal would be a blow to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's claims of judicial independence.
"The chilling effects of the National Security Law can already be seen in Hong Kong," the foreign secretary wrote, listing the recent disqualification of four elected lawmakers and earlier Legislative Council election delays.
In response to these developments, the UK government has launched a new immigration route for Hong Kong residents who hold British National (Overseas) passports and their immediate families.
The UK administration suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and extended a China arms embargo to include the Special Administrative Region "given the role that Beijing has assumed in Hong Kong's internal security," Raab explained.
But the UK is just one in a growing list of countries to change policy approaches to Hong Kong in light of China's growing control.
Earlier this year, the American Senate and Congress approved sanctions on mainland officials earlier this year while more than a dozen foreign governments have ended their extradition treaties with the SAR as well.