EU report condemns Chinese ‘dismantling’ of Hong Kong freedoms

EU report condemns Chinese 'dismantling' of Hong Kong freedoms

China is “dismantling” the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ and eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy, democratic principles and fundamental freedoms, the EU has said in a new report.

The European Commission and the high representative have adopted the 25th annual report to the European Parliament and the Council on political and economic developments in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which covers developments in 2022.

2022 marked the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China and the second anniversary of the imposition of the National Security Law (NSL) on Hong Kong.

Over the course of the year, law enforcement agencies continued to make arrests on national security grounds. As of 31 December 2022, 236 people had been arrested under the NSL and other security legislation while 145 individuals and 5 companies had been charged. The conviction rate was 100 per cent.

Many people were awaiting trial, including 47 pro-democracy activists who participated in a primary election, members of the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, and Jimmy Lai. Many of them have been held in custody since January 2021, in some cases in solitary confinement.

The colonial-era sedition law was used frequently in 2022. Around a fifth of arrests by the national security police are made under this law. On 1 November, one EU national was arrested under the law.

In the fourth periodic review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Hong Kong, the United Nations Human Rights Committee urged Hong Kong to repeal the current National Security Law. The Committee highlighted concerns regarding the possibility of transferring cases from Hong Kong to mainland China (which is not a state party to the Covenant) for investigation, prosecution, trial and execution of penalties.

Freedom of the press declined considerably in 2022. Journalists were arrested and charged, and numerous independent media outlets ceased operations. In the 2022 Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index, Hong Kong ranked 148th out of 180 locations, 68 places lower than the previous year.

Following the 2021 electoral overhaul, aimed to ensure that ‘patriots administer Hong Kong’, the first election of the Chief Executive took place on 8 May. Former police officer and Chief Secretary for Administration John Lee was the only candidate in the race. He received 99.2 per cent of the valid votes and was sworn in on 1 July.

The annual report also highlights the substantial commercial links between the EU and Hong Kong. With 1,600 companies, the EU remained the largest foreign business community. The EU was Hong Kong’s third-largest trading partner in goods. EU bilateral trade in services with Hong Kong grew by 25.1 per cent. Two-way investment also remained significant.

Hong Kong’s economy fell back into recession in 2022, even though travel and health restrictions were gradually relaxed in the second part of the year. Hong Kong remained the world’s third-largest investment destination and was the world’s fifth-largest trading economy.

Josep Borrell, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, said: “Throughout 2022, the National Security Law and other legislation have continued to be used to stifle dissent and pluralism and the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong.

“The dismantling of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and erosion of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy continues unabated.”

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