The Hong Kong government on Thursday rebuffed a US congressional panel report that suggested that the territory’s autonomy and freedoms, including free speech rights and the space for political dissent, were increasingly getting undermined.
Responding to a report released by the United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a government spokesman stressed that Hong Kong continues to exercise “a high degree of autonomy” and that it follows the principle of “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” in strict accordance with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
The Hong Kong government “express regret over the biased conclusions and unfounded accusations” contained in the US report, the spokesman said in a statement.
Since its return to Chinese rule, Hong Kong has witnessed “successful implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, the statement said.
The Hong Kong government attaches great importance to freedom of speech, which is protected by the Basic Law, it said.
However, “both the relevant international human rights convention and court cases clearly point out that freedom of speech is not absolute,” the statement said, adding that “there is no room for discussing ‘Hong Kong’s independence’”.
In other comments, the spokesman said that “foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs” of Hong Kong.
The statement came a day after the United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in its annual report that Hong Kong’s autonomy is continuing to be eroded and that freedom of expression is under threat in the territory.
In the report, the US panel said the so-called co-location arrangement for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which allows mainland border control officials to be stationed in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon terminus, was seen by many as a major regression of the “one country, two systems” principle, yet the Hong Kong government still went ahead with the plan.
The arrangement adds to concerns about erosion of the city’s autonomy, the panel suggested.
The report also expressed deep concern over issues of human rights in Hong Kong, saying there has been diminishing space for political action by pro-democracy groups and individuals in the city.
Among the examples it enumerated was of the government taking legal action against leaders and participants of the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy Central movement, and political screening of prospective candidates for the March Legislative Council by-election based on the candidates’ party affiliations or political beliefs.
Reiterating its support for democracy in Hong Kong, the commission suggested in the report that the US government should legislate the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act so as to help it monitor the situation regarding autonomy in Hong Kong.
In addition, it urged Washington to continue issuing annual reports based on the United States－Hong Kong Policy Act as well as consider whether Hong Kong still deserves preferential tax terms and benefits from the US.
In the statement Thursday, the Hong Kong government spokesman said there is no such thing as “political screening” in Hong Kong as alleged by the US report.
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