Why Hong Kong must heed EU warning over ‘constant interference’ in ‘one country, two systems’
Simon Henderson says a European Parliament report flagging grave concerns with Hong Kong’s trajectory is a call for the city to protect its core values, the rule of law and respect for human rights
The European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs last week released a landmark report on Hong Kong. Its strident recommendations are a clear warning sign of how the city’s rule of law and human rights environment are rapidly deteriorating in the eyes of the international community.
The report cites grave concerns with Hong Kong’s trajectory, 20 years after its handover. Identifying the link between Hong Kong’s success and an open society, the report “condemn[s] the constant interference of the [People’s Republic of China] in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, which may put at risk the long-term viability of the ‘one country, two systems’ model”.
The report expresses concern that such interference undermines the European Union’s engagement with Hong Kong. “In the same way that the EU’s ‘One China’ policy is the cornerstone of the EU’s engagement, fully respecting the Basic Law … and the ‘one country, two systems’ principle is of key importance for the … further strengthening and expanding of … relations with the EU,” it stresses.
Few believe the consistent refrains from Chinese officials that “one country, two systems” is being fully respected. It is something the government of Hong Kong should pay close attention to, if they are interested in ensuring that its reputation and competitive edge are maintained.
Maintaining the unique legal characteristics of Hong Kong is a matter of national interest for many countries, including EU members. This is especially the case for their substantial business and investment interests, where upholding the rule of law is critical.
The report will ensure human rights concerns in Hong Kong are given greater global attention in the coming year, notably in the third cycle of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Hong Kong will be reviewed next, alongside mainland China and Macau, in October.
Hong Kong NGOs have come together by forming the Hong Kong UPR Coalition, and will work collaboratively with the Hong Kong government and the international community, as they address many of the concerns in the EU report.
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Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor stated in her first policy address that respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law are part of Hong Kong’s core values. These values are a competitive advantage and help to encourage international investment, all part of branding Hong Kong as “Asia’s world city”.
The UPR is an opportunity for the Hong Kong government to show that it is genuine about protecting its core values.
Simon Henderson is senior policy adviser at Justice Centre Hong Kong, which is helping to facilitate the engagement of civil society in Hong Kong for the UN Third Cycle Universal Periodic Review