Hong Kong Basic Law

EU concerned over ‘gradual erosion’ of Hong Kong’s autonomy

Issues raised in European Commission report include British activist being refused entry and Chinese businessman going missing from hotel in city

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 11:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 11:40am

The European Union has voiced concerns over the “gradual erosion” of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy as it questioned the implementation of the “one country, two systems” policy in its latest report on the city.

In response, the Hong Kong government said that the city had been exercising a high degree of autonomy since its “return to the motherland” from British rule. It reiterated calls for foreign institutions not to interfere in its internal affairs after a US report released on Saturday highlighted a “chilling effect on political protest” in the city.

The European Commission’s 2017 annual report, released on Tuesday, cited as examples British activist Benedict Rogers being refused entry to the city, and Chinese businessman Xiao Jianhua going missing from his hotel in Hong Kong.

Rogers, a Conservative Party activist and a vocal critic of China, was turned away at the Hong Kong airport last October. He said the purpose of the trip was to visit friends.

The commission report read: “It appears … that this decision was taken by Beijing on the basis of its competence in ‘foreign affairs’. This raised questions about the implementation of the one country two systems principle, inasmuch as, under the Basic Law, immigration falls under the remit of Hong Kong.”

One country, two systems is the model under which Beijing governs Hong Kong.

On Xiao’s “ alleged abduction”, the report said it raised “concern that mainland security forces may be operating on Hong Kong soil”.

One night in January last year, the businessman was reportedly taken away by several men from the luxurious Four Seasons Place, where he was staying. He later crossed the border into Shenzhen and has since disappeared.

The report also highlighted the controversial joint checkpoint plan for the West Kowloon terminus of the cross-border high-speed rail link connecting the city, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

The arrangement grants Beijing almost full jurisdiction in the designated port area “leased” to the mainland by Hong Kong. The report noted that “questions have been raised about the compatibility of this co-location arrangement with the one country, two systems principle”.

Regarding political developments in the city, the report said that “groups calling for self-determination … or outright independence … have been weakened” and “calls for independence have faded”. But it did not say what had caused the decline.

While the report agreed that Hong Kong’s media enjoyed a high level of freedom, it noted that there had been rising concern about “its limits in relation to the sensitive issue of calls for self-determination or independence”.

The report noted that Reporters Without Borders downgraded Hong Kong by four places to 73rd on its press freedom index in 2017 – a historic low – and that the annual report by the Hong Kong Journalists Association also said that self-censorship was getting worse.

The EU report once again called on Hong Kong to kick start electoral reform, saying this would give the government greater legitimacy to tackle the city’s social and economic challenges.

Public fears pressure from Beijing is leading to end of press freedom in Hong Kong

In response, a spokesman for the Hong Kong government said: “Since the return to the motherland, [Hong Kong] has been exercising a high degree of autonomy and ‘Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong’ in strict accordance with the Basic Law.

“This demonstrates the full and successful implementation of the one country, two systems principle, which has been widely recognised by the international community.

“Foreign institutions should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of [Hong Kong].”