Hong Kong localism and independence

US accuses China of encroaching on Hong Kong’s autonomy in new human rights report

US State Department calls Basic Law interpretation by central government in case of pro-independence lawmakers ‘unnecessary and unsolicited’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 March, 2017, 1:10pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 March, 2017, 7:35pm

The United States government has accused China of “encroaching” on Hong Kong’s autonomy in the State Department’s first annual human rights report after Donald Trump was elected president.

It also said the central government had issued an “unnecessary and unsolicited” Basic Law interpretation that “pre-empted” Hong Kong courts’ adjudication of the behaviours of pro-independence lawmakers.

The report, issued by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday, came on the same day that a member of China’s supreme governing body, the Politburo Standing Committee, praised Hong Kong delegates in the country’s top advisory body for speaking out positively on the interpretation issued last year.

Hong Kong legal heavyweights warn against Beijing interpretations of Basic Law

“The most important human rights problem reported was the central government’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy,” the State Department report said. “The National People’s Congress Standing Committee on November 7 issued an unnecessary and unsolicited interpretation of the Basic Law that pre-empted the ability of Hong Kong’s independent judiciary to rule on the matter.

“It marked the first time it had issued such an interpretation while a Hong Kong judge was deliberating the case in question and the second time it had done so in the absence of a request from Hong Kong authorities,” it stated.

The High Court subsequently disqualified pro-independence lawmakers Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who had used words insulting to China when taking their oaths of office.

The report added that Hongkongers remained “concerned by the breach of Hong Kong’s autonomy” when five publishers of books critical of the Communist Party leadership disappeared in late 2015, with their cases still lacking transparency.

Other human rights problems, it said, included trafficking in persons, and societal prejudice against certain ethnic minorities and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Responding to the report, a Hong Kong government spokesman said: “Foreign governments should respect the rule of law and the independent judicial system in Hong Kong. They should not interfere in the internal affairs of the HKSAR.”

The spokesman also said the National People’s Congress Standing Committee “has the power to interpret the Basic Law” and the power is “part of the constitutional order” of Hong Kong, recognised by local courts.