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Legislative Council elections 2016

Beijing slams UK report which says Legco elections saga and oath row damaged confidence in ‘one country, two systems’

British urge local and central governments to take steps to restore city’s faith in the model, but China warns against foreign interference

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 February, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 5:05pm

The Chinese foreign ministry has dismissed the findings of a British report that pointed to the Legislative Council elections saga and the oath-taking row as factors that have damaged people’s confidence in the “one country, two systems” principle.

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang urged the British government to stop publishing such reports and intruding into Hong Kong’s affairs.

“Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs,” Geng said. “Foreign countries have no right to interfere.”

Geng added that the central government had upheld the principles of “one country, two systems”.

While noting that the policy continued to function well in the vast majority of areas, the British government urged central and local authorities, as well as all elected politicians, to take steps to restore domestic and international confidence.

“The period under review in this report nevertheless saw a number of developments which caused concern in Hong Kong and internationally with respect to the implementation of ‘one country, two systems’,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote in the foreword to the report.

The biannual study on the former British colony covered the later half of 2016 and was released on Friday and presented to the British parliament.

We did not question the right of the Standing Committee to issue this interpretation, but were concerned about the timing of its release
Boris Johnson, British foreign secretary

Johnson further wrote: “These include the events surrounding the Legislative Council elections and the subsequent oath-taking by elected legislators; and continuing concerns about the exercise of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Joint Declaration, including freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.”

The declaration set out the terms of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997.

Johnson was referring to the months-long oath controversy triggered by localist lawmakers-elect Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching last year.

The court disqualified the Youngspiration pair after the government filed a legal bid against the duo’s anti-Beijing antics at a Legco swearing-in ceremony in October.

But before the ruling, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee had stepped in to interpret the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

Prior to the saga, six localist candidates were also barred from running in the Legco elections because of questions over their recognition of Hong Kong as an inalienable part of China.

“The British government specifically raised its concerns about the interpretation, both publicly and privately,” Johnson wrote.

“We did not question the right of the Standing Committee to issue this interpretation, but were concerned about the timing of its release before the conclusion of related judicial proceedings in the Hong Kong courts.”

The report dismissed the notion of Hong Kong independence as an option for the city, noting local discussion of the topic and stressing that the “one country, two systems” arrangement provided by the Joint Declaration and Basic Law was the best long-term system.

In its previous report, the British government expressed concerns over the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers who later resurfaced under the custody of mainland authorities.

It said it continued to have concerns about the incident and claimed it aired them with mainland and Hong Kong authorities during the reporting period.