UK: Summary of Government’s Report on Hong Kong

On 23rd July, the UK Government published its 11th 6-monthly report on Hong Kong. The follow is a summary of relevant parts:

In the Foreword, the UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stated that, "It is vital… that the basic rights and freedoms afforded to the people of Hong Kong through the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law continue to be up held." Clearly referring to the Chinese government's interference and pressure on the Hong Kong authority, Mr. Straw stated "It is vital that [Hong Kong's] autonomy continues to be respected.

The report highlighted the on-going trial of innocent Falun Gong practitioners in Hong Kong and a number of incidents that were widely regarded as examples of the Hong Kong government's disregard for human rights when under pressure from China.

The report stated, "there have been a number of controversial incidents relating to the handling of the Falun Gong … On 14 March, sixteen Falun
Gong demonstrators, including four from Switzerland, were arrested while protesting outside the Central Peoples' Government Liaison Office. … All sixteen were charged with obstruction;" The report explained how the Hong Kong government ironically later dug up pavement at the very spot where the Falun Gong practitioners were arrested for obstructing the pavement: "The SAR Government subsequently erected wooden panels outside the CPG Liaison Office where the Falun Gong had staged its daily protests. A spokesperson for the Home Affairs Department said that the SAR (ed. Note - Self-Autonomous Region of Hong Kong) Government was building a vehicle drop-off point and installing flowerbeds as part of a project to green the environment. Falun Gong practitioners complained that the SAR Government was trying to stifle their activities. They also alleged that the SAR Government had barred them from using Government venues."

The report pointed out that the British government "believes that freedom of assembly and freedom of speech must not be compromised if Hong Kong is to retain its image as a free and open society".

The report went on to highlight another incident of abuse: "In the run-up to the celebrations for the 5th Anniversary of the handover, at which Chinese
President Jiang Zemin was to be present, Falun Gong representatives in Hong Kong claimed that nearly 100 overseas Falun Gong practitioners were denied entry to Hong Kong."

The report stated that the UK government's view is that "cases like these are liable to cast doubt on the SAR Government's commitment to the free flow of ideas, freedom of association, and ease of travel"

The Report noted the statement by the Hong Kong Journalist Association and ARTICLE 19 (The Global Campaign for Freedom of Expression) which noted that "the environment for vibrant and healthy free expression, and a free press, in Hong Kong has become hazy and more ambiguous" and there is "a tendency by the authorities to permit the erosion of rights"

Regarding the pressure the Chinese authority has exerted on Hong Kong to enact an anti-subversion law that could be used, according to Chinese
Vice-Premier Qian Qichen, to make it "illegal for Falun Gong members to maintain links with Falun Gong practitioners outside Hong Kong", the report stated that the UK government "have made clear to the Chinese authorities our views on these issues" and that "it is clearly essential that any legislation is consistent with international human rights treaties"

Despite a recent statement by a prominent Chinese leader that Hong Kong's limited election system should not be changed in the foreseeable future, the UK Foreign Secretary clearly thinks differently: "It remains our hope that progress towards these goals [the election of the Chief Executive and all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage] is achieved as early as possible, at a pace in line with the wish of the Hong Kong Community."

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