Britain voices concern that HK autonomy is 'being reduced'

March 28, 2019 14:01
If Hong Kong is to continue to attract international businesses, and be an attractive place to live and work, maintaining the city's high degree of autonomy is essential, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a report. Photo: Reuters

The British government voiced concern about Hong Kong’s future, saying several incidents that took place in the past few months suggest that the city’s autonomy is getting eroded.

In a six-monthly report to the British parliament, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote that implementation of the 'one country, two systems' principle since 1997 has been central to Hong Kong’s prosperity.

While praising the model for working well, Hunt said he has been concerned that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is "being reduced" and that the territory is being pressured to accept Beijing's interpretation of civil and political freedoms.

Explaining where his concern originated, Hunt cited several examples, including the banning of the Hong Kong National Party, political screening of election candidates, and the seemingly politically motivated expulsion of Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet.

The senior British government official pointed out that the ‘one country, two systems’ principle is an unique advantage for Hong Kong because it not only makes the city a bridge that connects China to the world but also allows the territory to keep judicial independence, which gives foreign companies operating there great confidence.

However, as Hong Kong has been assimilating itself into China, it also means the way the city interprets civil and political freedoms is more and more like China, Hunt said.

“If Hong Kong is to continue to attract international businesses, and be an attractive place to live and work, then its high degree of autonomy, and the way of life that has made it unique and successful, must be maintained,” Hunt wrote, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Emphasizing that Hongkongers’ rights and freedoms must be maintained to ensure the city’s continued prosperity, Hunt said that while Britain does not support independence for Hong Kong, the UK government will continue to commit to the “faithful implementation” of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

In response to the report, a Hong Kong government spokesman said the city has been following 'Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong' and a high degree of autonomy in strict accordance with the Basic Law since the return to Chinese sovereignty, and that the 'one country, two systems' principle has been fully and successfully implemented.

While pledging that the government will fully protect human rights and freedoms in Hong Kong and insisting that there is no question of 'political screening' as alleged by the report, the spokesman stressed that foreign governments should not interfere in any form in the city's internal affairs.

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