26th May 2023 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong authorities have condemned the recent British government call for the removal of a China-imposed national security law that Britain claims has been used to persecute, “silence and discredit” pro-democracy opposition figures. In the latest six-monthly report on Hong Kong, Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly highlighted how Hong Kong authorities have used the national security law to crack down on opposition figures, many of whom are in jail or have been forced into exile. Cleverly called on Beijing to implement recommendations made in an independent UN Human Rights Council report last July, including “removing the National Security Law” that Beijing imposed on the former British colony in 2020.
Hong Kong authorities have vehemently refuted, strongly disapproved of and firmly rejected the “ill-intentioned political attacks” made by the U.K.. A Hong Kong government spokesman said that Britain should “stop interfering in Hong Kong matters, which are purely China’s internal affairs”. The spokesman added that Hong Kong’s security law had brought stability after mass pro-democracy protests in 2019, and while Hong Kong laws guaranteed certain individual rights, “such rights and freedoms are not absolute” when it comes to safeguarding national security.
Britain referred in its report to the erosion of Hong Kong’s rule of law, including transferring “powers once vested in the judiciary” to Hong Kong’s pro-China leader, and the inability of those facing national security charges to challenge government decisions in the courts. Cleverly also raised the case of media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who founded the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper that police raided and shut down in 2021. Lai faces a national security trial in September.
Meanwhile, Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has criticised the U.K.’s so-called six-monthly report on Hong Kong, calling it a misleading “report” that is steeped in ideological bias and inconsistent with the facts. In a press release, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region refuted the report, saying that the UK hasn’t woken up from its colonial dream and continues to interfere in Hong Kong affairs.
Since the return of Hong Kong to China, the Chinese government has remained committed to implementing One Country, Two Systems, with Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong and a high degree of autonomy. Hong Kong residents now enjoy more rights and freedoms than before 1997. The effective implementation of the law on safeguarding national security and the new electoral system has enabled Hong Kong to enter a new stage of development. Its rule of law and business environment have improved, foreign investors’ confidence has grown, and its status as an international finance, trade, and shipping hub has been consolidated.
The Chinese government’s governance of Hong Kong is based on China’s Constitution and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR, not the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Hong Kong is part of China, and its affairs are purely China’s internal affairs. Criticising Hong Kong or talking down its prospects will not sway China’s steady course of advancing One Country, Two Systems.