China on Saturday dismissed a British report that measures taken by it against pro-independence forces in last year’s legislative elections in Hong Kong dented the confidence in the city’s autonomy guaranteed during the transfer of power of the former British colony. “Hong Kong is China’s Special Administrative Region. Hong Kong affairs are China’s domestic affairs in which no foreign country has the right to interfere,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement here.
He was reacting to the UK’s report which stated that developments in Hong Kong have affected confidence in the city’s autonomy, though its rule of law remained robust “despite challenges”. The UK has been issuing periodically official reports to British Parliament over Hong Kong after Britain handed the former colony back to China in 1997 with guarantees that it would retain extensive autonomy, an independent legal system and broad personal and commercial freedoms under a deal known as “one country, two systems”.
Hong Kong witnessed a series of pro-democracy protests with large participation of people over the past couple of years, with some group of people pushing for independence. “Over the past 20 years since the return of Hong Kong, the Chinese central government has been comprehensively implementing the principles of ‘one country, two systems’, ‘Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong’, Geng said.
China is strictly following the Constitution as well as the Basic Law, and fully supporting the Chief Executive and the Hong Kong government in administering law-based governance, he said, adding that Hong Kong continues enjoying prosperity and stability, and its residents enjoy every right and freedom they are entitled to in accordance with the law. “The British government has been releasing the so-called Six-Monthly Report to Parliament on Hong Kong on a regular basis since the return of Hong Kong, which we consistently and firmly oppose. We ask the British side not to release the relevant report and not to interfere in Hong Kong affairs,” Geng said.
The UK report said the events surrounding the last Legislative Council elections and the subsequent oath-taking saga have shaken people’s confidence in the implementation of “one country, two systems” policy. While arguing the “one country, two systems” model continued to function well in the vast majority of areas, the British government urged the central and local authorities as well as all elected politicians to take steps to restore people’s full confidence in them.
“The period under review in this report nevertheless saw a number of developments which caused concern in Hong Kong and internationally with respect to the implementation of ‘one country, two systems’,” UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote in the foreword to the latest biannual report on the former British colony. “These include the events surrounding the Legislative Council elections and the subsequent oath-taking by elected legislators; and continuing concerns about the exercise of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Joint Declaration including freedom of expression and the freedom of the press,” the report said.
Johnson was referring to the months-long oath controversy triggered by pro-independence lawmakers-elect Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching last year, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. The democratically elected pair were disqualified by a court after the government filed a legal bid over their anti-Beijing stance during a swearing-in ceremony including one of them displaying a banner “Hong Kong is not China”. In response, China’s Parliament the National People’s Congress in a resolution interpreting the Basic Law agreed during the transfer of power stated that the city’s lawmakers should be sworn in properly and only be given one chance to do so. The ruling effectively led to their disqualification.
The UK Report said “we did not question the right of the Standing Committee to issue this interpretation, but were concerned about the timing of its release”. Prior to that, six localist candidates were barred from running in the Legco elections because of questions over their commitment to the declaration that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. The UK report has also not satisfied the Hong Kong democracy activists who said it is inadequate. “The British government’s claim in its Six-Monthly Report on HK that the 1Country2Systems continued to function well is out of reality,” Joshua Wong Chi-fung, prominent pro-democracy activist, said.