Hong Kong Watch response to the FCO 6 monthly report on Hong Kong

HONG KONG WATCH WELCOMES UK EMPHASIS ON SINO-BRITISH JOINT DECLARATION IN LATEST SIX-MONTHLY REPORT BUT CALLS FOR ACTION TO END EROSION OF HONG KONG’S AUTONOMY

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Hong Kong Watch today welcomed the publication of the British Government’s most recent Six Monthly Report on Hong Kong, in which the new Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed his concerns about the disqualification of candidates for the Legislative Council, threats to freedom of expression and “continued pressure on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and on the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Joint Declaration and enshrined in the Basic Law”.

In his Foreword to the report, the Foreign Secretary stated that “the Sino-British Joint Declaration remains as relevant today as it was when it was signed by the governments of the UK and China more than 30 years ago”. It remains, he added, “a legally binding treaty, registered with the UN”, and the United Kingdom remains “committed to monitoring its implementation”.

The report details concerns in the first six months of 2018, including the disqualification of three pro-democracy candidates Agnes Chow, Ventus Lau and James Chan from competing in by-elections for the Legislative Council, the ‘co-location of mainland Chinese officials at the West Kowloon terminal for the high-speed rail link, and a proposed new National Anthem Law. It also highlights the sentencing to six years in prison of pro-democracy activist Edward Leung on charges of ‘rioting’, and the prosecution of six former legislators and leaders of the ‘Umbrella’ movement of 2014. It notes continuing pressure on press freedom, including attacks on Hong Kong journalists in mainland China. Despite detailing many causes for concern, however, the British government’s report continues to assess that Hong Kong’s ‘one country, two systems’ principle “generally continues to function well”.

Benedict Rogers, Hong Kong Watch’s co-founder and Chair of Trustees, said: “We welcome the Foreign Secretary’s explicit commitment to Britain’s obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and his observation that threats to Hong Kong’s autonomy and basic freedoms cause concern. We welcome the fact that he raised these concerns during his visit to China in July, and that the Prime Minister also discussed these issues during her visit earlier this year. Nevertheless, we believe this report still underestimates the gravity of the situation. The suggestion that despite threats to Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy, ‘one country, two systems’ generally functions well is misleading. If Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms are threatened, by definition ‘one country, two systems’ is undermined. We therefore urge the British government to go further and to consider what practical steps it can take to urge the governments of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to live up to the promises of the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, reverse the increasing erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms, and ensure that ‘one country, two systems’ really does function fully from now on.”

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