South Korea respects the 1984 declaration between China and Britain ensuring Hong Kong's autonomy, the foreign ministry said Tuesday, amid concerns Beijing's contentious security legislation could erode the semiautonomous territory's civil liberties.
Last week, China's parliament endorsed the legislation for Hong Kong, which critics say could serve as a legal framework to suppress subversion or dissent in the former British colony and tighten Beijing's grip on it.
"Hong Kong is an important region that has close people-to-people and economic exchanges with South Korea, and we believe it is important that Hong Kong's prosperity and development continue under the 'one country, two systems' principle," Kim In-chul, ministry spokesman, said in a regular press briefing.
"The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration is a statement registered with the United Nations as a treaty in 1985. We respect the joint declaration," he added.
The ministry had initially been seen as cautious about touching on the Hong Kong issue at a time when South Korea seeks to maintain close ties with China amid efforts to arrange a visit to Seoul by Chinese President Xi Jinping this year.
The Hong Kong issue has been taking on geopolitical overtones as Washington officials have railed against the security legislation and threatened to revoke trade privileges for Hong Kong.
The 1984 declaration that led to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to Chinese rule stipulates that the territory will enjoy a "high degree of autonomy" except in foreign and defense affairs, and that the current social and economic systems in Hong Kong, as well as its lifestyle, will remain unchanged. (Yonhap)