‘Any enactment of Article 23 must not undermine basic rights and freedoms’: UK government statement
The UK government Minister also said that ‘confidence in rule of law is essential for Hong Kong's reputation as a global centre for business.’
Following the publication of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's six monthly report which said that one-country, two-systems is under 'increasing pressure', UK Parliamentarians have taken a more active interest in Hong Kong’s human rights and freedoms, raising 13 questions in March 2018.
In response to these questions, the UK government yesterday said that future national security legislation in Hong Kong must not undermine the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, and highlighted that ‘confidence in rule of law is essential for 'One Country, Two Systems' and for Hong Kong's reputation as a global centre for business.’
The statement was in response to a question from Labour MP, Geraint Davies, who asked what assessment the Minister had made ‘of the potential effect the proposed Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23 legislation on British businesses operating in Hong Kong.’
The Right Honourable Mark Field, Minister of State for Asia, said:
“Any enactment of Article 23 legislation is for the Hong Kong Government to decide, in consultation with the people of Hong Kong.
“Should the Hong Kong Government seek to introduce a bill, the FCO regards it as important that there is dialogue between all parties; and that any legislation does not undermine the basic rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.
“The rule of law and independence of the judiciary is the foundation on which Hong Kong's success and prosperity is built. Despite challenges, Hong Kong's rule of law remains robust and the judiciary remains in high esteem. Confidence in rule of law is essential for 'One Country, Two Systems' and for Hong Kong's reputation as a global centre for business.”
Benedict Rogers, the Chairman of Trustees for Hong Kong Watch, welcomed the statement:
“The UK government have made a clear statement that any new legislation in the coming years must not undermine the basic rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong. This means that any future, and current, National Security Legislation must conform to the international human rights standards which are laid out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Johannesburg Principles on National Security.”
Mr Davies is one of a number of Parliamentarians to have expressed concerns about the consequences that the erosion that the rule of law in Hong Kong could have on British businesses. In March 2018, Democratic Unionist MP Jim Shannon, Conservative MP Bob Blackman and Labour Party Lord Ray Collins of Highbury all raised the same concern through Written Parliamentary Questions, receiving similar responses from the UK government about the importance of rule of law for Hong Kong’s reputation as a global centre of business.
Benedict Rogers said:
“At a time when we are hearing judges in Hong Kong voicing fears over the state of rule of law in Hong Kong, it is right that Members of Parliament are raising the potential impact that eroding rule of law could have on international business. The government are correct to say that ‘Confidence in rule of law is essential for 'One Country, Two Systems' and for Hong Kong's reputation as a global centre for businesses.’ Human rights and rule of law are designed to safeguard everyone – from individual protestors to corporations. For the sake of Hong Kong’s status as a global centre for business, it is critical that these are upheld.”
In other questions, Conservative MP Richard Burden and the Democratic Unionist MP Sammy Wilson both asked questions about the UK government’s response to the detention of Gui Minhai. The Right Honourable Mark Field responded by saying that the UK had ‘repeatedly raised these cases at the most senior levels with the authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing’, and that the UK ‘fully support’ the robust statements made by the EU.