UK 6 monthly report on Hong Kong 1 January - 30 June 2020
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
UK Government source Deposited in Parliament by the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs 23 November 2020. (29 pages PDF document).
This is the 47th in a series of regular reports to Parliament on the implementation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong. Although the substance of this Six-monthly Report covers the period from 1 January to 30 June 2020, this Foreword also addresses subsequent events. Regrettably, the subsequent period saw two breaches of the Joint Declaration by China.
I made clear in my Foreword to the last Report that the UK is fully committed to upholding Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms under the Joint Declaration and the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework. We will not waver from this commitment.
This has been, and continues to be, the most concerning period in Hong Kong’s post-handover history. Following the mass protests last year, the Hong Kong SAR Government made some initial attempts towards dialogue with the people of Hong Kong. However, this has since been abandoned, with the apparent focus now on retribution against political opposition and silencing of dissent.
Central to this approach is the new National Security Law, imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing on 30 June in clear breach of the Joint Declaration. The National Security Law was imposed in direct conflict with Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which affirms that Hong Kong should bring forward its own national security legislation. It violates the high degree of autonomy of executive and legislative powers and independent judicial authority, provided for in paragraph 3 of the Joint Declaration.
This new legislation allows the mainland Chinese authorities to take jurisdiction over certain cases without independent oversight and to try cases in mainland courts. It has also led to the Chinese Government establishing a new Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong run by, and reporting to, mainland authorities. Chinese security agents can now operate in Hong Kong without being held to account under Hong Kong law.
The chilling effects of the National Security Law can already be seen in Hong Kong. It is already reducing the extent to which the people of Hong Kong are able to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms. It has damaged freedom of expression in academia, schools and libraries, including through the removal of textbooks and other books containing certain political content. It has been used as the basis for a raid on a leading Hong Kong newspaper and the arrest of its owner. Hong Kong police regularly threaten arrests under its provisions in response to the chanting or display of political slogans during demonstrations. Uncertainties about how the provisions in the law might be used in future is reportedly having a wider chilling effect on the exercise of freedoms through encouraging self-censorship.
Meanwhile, I have also been deeply concerned at the authorities’ undermining of the Hong Kong legislature. This has involved the disqualification of 12 opposition candidates, including four incumbent legislators, from standing in elections for the Legislative Council. This was then compounded by the postponement of elections, and the recent apparently politically motivated arrest of seven serving and former pan-democratic legislators. Then, on11 November, China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee issued a Decision that set out the grounds on which Hong Kong legislators could be disqualified. This led to the immediate removal of four elected members of the Legislative Council, which triggered the mass resignation of other pan-democratic legislators. On the same day, I made an initial statement setting out my concerns. The following day, after a full analysis had been conducted, I declared another formal breach of the Joint Declaration. The Decision by the Standing Committee of the NPC breaches both China’s commitment that Hong Kong will enjoy a ‘high degree of autonomy’ and the right to freedom of speech guaranteed under Paragraph 3 and Annex I of the Declaration.
The UK supports the legitimate expectations of the people of Hong Kong, in line with the Joint Declaration, to elect Legislative Council representatives via genuinely free, fair and credible elections. Any additional delays to these elections, beyond September 2021, would be utterly unacceptable. I issued a statement on 9 August, together with my counterparts from the Five Eyes countries, noting that the postponement had undermined the democratic process that has been fundamental to Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.
Through the imposition of the National Security Law, China has failed to live up to its international obligations with respect to Hong Kong. The UK Government has responded with a series of reasonable and proportionate measures, which reflect our vital interests and our long-standing commitments to the people of Hong Kong. First, we have created a new tailored immigration route for British Nationals (Overseas) and their immediate family dependants.
The visa route will grant BN(O)s up to five years’ leave to remain, with the right to work and study, providing a clear path to British citizenship. I announced these new arrangements on 1 July, the Home Secretary has subsequently provided further details, and we are on track to launch the new arrangements on 31January 2021. Second, given the different legal arrangements created under the National Security Law, I suspended the UK extradition treaty with Hong Kong, acting together with the Home Secretary, Justice Secretary and Attorney-General. We will not consider reactivating this treaty unless clear and robust safeguards are provided to prevent extradition from the UK being misused under the National Security Law.
Third, we have extended the China arms embargo to include Hong Kong, given the role that Beijing has assumed in Hong Kong’s internal security. This means there will be no exports from the UK to Hong Kong of potentially lethal weapons, their components or ammunition. It also means a ban on any equipment which might be used for internal repression, such as shackles, intercept equipment, firearms and smoke grenades.
Fourth, together with the Lord Chancellor, I have begun consultations with Lord Reed, President of the UK Supreme Court, concerning when to review whether it continues to be appropriate for British judges to sit as non-permanent judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.
The international community has been vocal in setting out its concerns about the National Security Law. On 6 October at the UN General Assembly Third Committee, the UK worked with 38 countries to issue a statement urging the relevant authorities to guarantee the rights protected under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Hong Kong’s high level of autonomy and rights and freedoms are enshrined in theJoint Declaration. However, Beijing’s decisions to impose the National Security Law and then, a few months later, to disqualify elected legislators, represent two substantive breaches of the Joint Declaration in just five months. This calls into serious question China’s commitment to the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework. It is not too late for the authorities to reach out and start to heal divisions, however complicated and difficult that might be. For our part, the UK will continue to pursue an approach in Hong Kong that is rooted in our values, defends the rights of the people of Hong Kong and respects the provisions of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
This series of Six-monthly Reports reflects our continuing interest in developments in Hong Kong and our commitment to the faithful implementation of the1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. This Declaration guaranteed that,for 50 years from 1997, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) would enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs, and that it would be “vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power”. The continuation of Hong Kong’s social and economic systems, lifestyle, and rights and freedoms is guaranteed under the Joint Declaration. This arrangement is popularly referred to as ‘One Country, Two Systems’.
Events are covered in the report under the categories of:
–Constitution and ‘One Country, Two Systems’;
–Significant political developments;
–Legal and judicial developments; and
–Basic rights and freedoms.
The reporting period saw the imposition by Beijing on Hong Kong of a new National Security Law, which the Foreign Secretary stated on 1 July 2020 to Parliament was a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The period was also marked by the simultaneous challenges of civil unrest and the onset of Covid-19, with the pandemic and the political situation interacting. The Government introduced social distancing measures, which were widely accepted by the public but which some activists and legislators claimed were on occasion misused to prevent protests. There was no substantive dialogue between the Hong Kong authorities, opposition or public about how to address concerns raised through the protests about Hong Kong’s autonomy, rights and freedoms.
Specific issues related to Hong Kong’s autonomy and rights and freedoms, included:
i) The right to freedom of speech when“disrespect”for China’s national anthem was criminalised;
ii) The role of mainland authorities in Hong Kong’s governance, because the Central Government Liaison Office (CGLO) asserted that it was not bound by Article 22 of the Basic Law which generally prohibits interference by the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong’s affairs;
iii) The role of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to introduce and scrutinise legislation, because it was gridlocked by procedural delays then bypassed entirely with the introduction of the National Security Law.
Carrie Lam hits back at latest UK report on Hong Kong
Apple Daily 24 November 2020
Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her administration issued a strongly worded statement in the middle of Monday night, refuting the United Kingdom government’s six-monthly report on Hong Kong and lambasting its “double standards.”
The latest U.K. report, published on Monday evening, cited a number of incidents – including the disqualification of opposition candidates and Beijing’s ousting of four elected legislators – and concluded that the imposition of the “National Security Law represents a clear and serious breach of the Joint Declaration”.
“No one is more committed to ‘one country, two systems’ than the Central People’s Government,” the Hong Kong government hit back, quoting Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The statement blamed events in recent years, including calls for independence and self-determination “imbued with anti-China sentiment”, for posing challenges to the “one country, two systems” principle. It also accused external forces of interfering in Hong Kong’s internal affairs and flagrantly glorifying the illegal acts of radicals.
“We condemned overseas politicians for turning a blind eye to such violence which was seriously jeopardizing our nation’s sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as the HKSAR’s prosperity and stability,” it said.
The statement also claimed broad support for the national security law. “It was hailed by some 2.9 million Hong Kong people,” referring to the number of signatures collected by a pro-Beijing group shortly after China’s rubber-stamp parliament announced its plans to introduce the controversial legislation in late May.
Despite weekly arrests of opposition lawmakers and a blanket ban on all public rallies, the statement said Hong Kong people could once again enjoy their basic rights and freedoms in accordance with the law.
The Lam administration did not respond to the chilling effect of the law mentioned in the report, but added that Hong Kong has jurisdiction over national security cases except in limited circumstances. “We doubt such responsibilities would be delegated to a local government in the U.K.,” the long statement continued.
“We could not help but mock at the double standards adopted by the U.K. Government,” comparing the postponement of local and mayoral elections in Britain to that of Hong Kong.
It accused the report of breaching international obligations and noted that over 70 countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council, including North Korea and Russia, expressed support for Beijing’s imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong.
In the report, British Foreign Secretary of State Dominic Raab wrote that he has begun consultations with the president of the U.K. Supreme Court on whether it continues to be appropriate for British judges to sit as non-permanent judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. The Hong Kong administration has not responded to this.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong also issued a statement, expressing strong indignation over and firm opposition against the report. “We urge the British side to wake up from its colonial nostalgia and stop any interference in Hong Kong affairs,” it blasted.
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