Push China to ensure rights of Hongkongers are protected, US officials urge
Report by US congressional commission on China also highlighted case of missing booksellers allegedly abducted by mainland agents
The US congressional commission on China has urged its administration officials to press the Chinese government on safeguarding the rights and freedoms of Hongkongers as the city faces a renewed threat of interference from the mainland authorities.
In its latest annual report on human rights and rule of law conditions in China, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China has particularly highlighted the worrying case of the five missing booksellers, who were allegedly abducted by mainland agents last year for publishing and selling books critical of the Chinese Communist Party.
“The growing influence of the Chinese central government and Communist Party and suspected activity by Chinese authorities in Hong Kong – notably the disappearance, alleged abduction, and detention in mainland China of five Hong Kong booksellers – raised fears regarding Hong Kong’s autonomy within China as guaranteed under the ‘one country, two systems’ policy enshrined in the Basic Law, which prohibits mainland Chinese authorities from interfering in Hong Kong’s internal affairs,” the report read.
The Hong Kong government issued a press release in response to the report late Friday night advising foreign legislatures not to interfere in the internal affairs of Hong Kong.
“Since the return to the Motherland, the HKSAR has been exercising a high degree of autonomy and ‘Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong’ in accordance with the Basic Law,” the statement added. “This demonstrates the successful implementation of the “one country, two systems” principle, which is widely recognised by the international communities.”
The US Congress and administration were also asked by the commission to raise the booksellers’ case in meetings with Hong Kong and Chinese officials, particularly regarding the legal status, conditions and whereabouts of Gui Minhai, the only bookseller who has yet to be freed.
They should also urge Beijing and Hong Kong authorities to restart the electoral reform process in order to allow voters to return their city’s leader and lawmakers via general universal suffrage.
The commission also mentioned the government’s move to require all Legislative Council aspirants to sign a pledge affirming Hong Kong is “an inalienable part of China”, a move regarded by many as political vetting. The city’s administration eventually disqualified six pro-independent contenders from the race.
Commission co-chairman US senator Marco Rubio said the report painted “an undeniably bleak situation of the deterioration of human rights and the rule of law in China, with especially grave consequences for civil society, religious believers, human rights lawyers, and labour activists”.
He added: “Beijing has become increasingly brazen in exerting its extraterritorial reach in the past year, as evidenced by the outrageous abductions of the Hong Kong booksellers.”
The report said Hong Kong had witnessed a decline in press freedom, due to government restrictions, violence against journalists and pressure on reporters and editors from media ownership.
The US Congress, it stated, should consider ways to “express the important connection between maintaining a free press, a vibrant civil society, an independent judiciary, and transparent governance in Hong Kong and the mutual interests shared by the US and China in maintaining Hong Kong as a centre of business and finance in Asia”.