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‘Continued erosion of freedoms’ in Hong Kong
Pic: Shutterstock

18 Aug 2023 / human rights Print

‘Continued erosion of freedoms’ in Hong Kong

An EU report has said that developments in Hong Kong last year cast doubt on China’s commitment to the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ in the territory.

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

The 25th annual report to the European Parliament and EU Council on political and economic developments in Hong Kong was adopted today (18 August) by the European Commission and the High Representative, who is responsible for foreign affairs and security.

Law ‘stifles dissent’

“The annual report illustrates the continued erosion of Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, democratic principles, and fundamental freedoms that were supposed to be protected until at least 2047,” the commission 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,” said High Representative Josep Borrell (pictured).

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

By the end of 2022, according to the report, 236 people had been arrested under the NSL and other security legislation, while 145 individuals and five companies had been charged.

It pointed out that the conviction rate was 100%.

The EU adopted a package of measures, which remain in place, in response to the NSL in 2020 – including a review of asylum, migration, visa and residency policy, and a review of extradition agreements.

Press freedom

The EU report also finds that freedom of the press “declined considerably” in 2022.

Journalists were arrested and charged, and numerous independent media outlets ceased operations,” it said.

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, while the EU was Hong Kong's third-largest trading partner in goods.

The EU has also published a report on the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR), which found “a growing focus on national security”.

It said that this risked undermining fundamental freedoms in Macao, and eroding the ‘one country, two systems' principle and Macao's high degree of autonomy.

An amended law on national security, similar to that introduced in Hong Kong, became effective on 30 May this year.

Gazette Desk
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