UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has urged authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong not to "stifle" opposition groups in the special administrative region, a Foreign and Commonwealth Office statement read on Wednesday.
The statement comes amid skyrocketing tensions between Beijing, London and Washington, namely after a Hong Kong court sentenced Joshua Wong, Ivan Lam and Agnes Chow to 30 months imprisonment for unlawful assembly.
"As three Hong Kong activists begin prison sentences, I urge the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities to bring an end to their campaign to stifle opposition. Prosecution decisions must be fair and impartial, and the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong must be upheld", Raab said in a statement.
The news comes a day after Beijing imposed sanctions on officials from several organisations linked to secessionist groups in Hong Kong such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and National Democratic Institute (NDI).
Raab's statement comes after comments from UK Chancellor of the Exchequers, Rishi Sunak, who said that London would have to take a "hard-headed" and "transactional" approach to Beijing.
“China is going to be a significant feature of the global economy, and only increasing in significance, so it would be wrong to ignore that,” he said at the time.
Relations between London and Beijing have soured to historic lows after the latter passed a national security law in Hong Kong, sparking criticism over the region's alleged violation of the 1997 UK-China 'one country, two systems' agreement'.
Further tensions peaked after the Trump administration announced in September it would sign a pact on artificial intelligence aimed at countering China's rise in the global tech market, citing Beijing's alleged "authoritarianism and repression".
The UK was the first country in Europe to ban Huawei Technologies in July, citing national security risks and disruptions to supply chains amid increasing trade restrictions and bans from Washington. Downing Street ordered this week national telcos to remove all Huawei kit from British networks by September next year or face massive penalties up to 10 percent of turnover.