The European Union has called for the resumption of electoral reform in Hong Kong after a “politically challenging” 2016.

The EU said it encourages Hong Kong and Beijing to come to a reform agreement in line with the Basic Law in order to form an election system that is democratic, fair, open and transparent.

Only three candidates could join the chief executive election of 2017, and only 1,194 people could vote. Photo: GovHK.

“Universal suffrage would give the government greater public support and legitimacy in pursuing Hong Kong’s economic objectives and tackling social challenges such as the socio-economic and generational divides in Hong Kong society,” read the 19th annual report to the European Parliament on Hong Kong.

The report came soon after a legal expert at Beijing’s official organ in Hong Kong suggested that the city’s democratic reform should not be a top priority in the next five to ten years, claiming that the major cause of the rift in society was livelihood issues.

The Mong Kok unrest. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

The European Commission and the European External Action Service said 2016 was a “politically challenging” year, as society became more polarised and increasingly anxious about its uncertain future after 2047 – the expiry of the guarantee that Hong Kong can maintain its capitalist system and way of life.

They noted political events such as the disappearance of several booksellers, the Mong Kok unrest, the emergence of groups advocating self-determination or independence, the disqualification of two localist lawmakers, and the Basic Law interpretation by Beijing.

“Record turnouts in the Legislative Council and Election Committee elections show that people are eager to play an active role in political life and in deciding the future of the SAR,” the report said.

Disqualified localist lawmakers Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching. File photo: HKFP

It also noted negative trends in press freedom in the publishing industry owing to caution and self-censorship.

But it said that generally, the “One Country, Two Systems” principle continued to work well last year.

It said the judiciary continued to demonstrate its independence and adherence to due process, despite being confronted with several politically-sensitive judicial reviews and the Basic Law interpretation. Freedom of speech and freedom of information were also generally upheld, the report said.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.