A British think tank says that Hong Kong’s autonomous status has deteriorated significantly over recent years, in a new report written by Hong Kong and international activists and scholars.

The Henry Jackson Society launched the report entitled Hong Kong After 20 Years: the Rollback of Civil, Human, and Legal Rights at the British House of Lords on Tuesday.

“[It] is remarkable to observe how much the tone has changed over the past ten years,” the report’s conclusion said. “In 2017, there are severe concerns that the guarantees given under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle are being fundamentally undermined.”

Henry Jackson Society Hong Kong
Authors of the report and Lord Alton (middle) outside the Parliament. Photo: Henry Jackson Society.

“At the heart of Hong Kong’s special status and autonomy, is its independent judiciary and respect for the rule of law. The Basic Law guarantees judicial independence in Hong Kong, a concept alien to the one-party state now exercising sovereignty over the HKSAR. This inherent conflict explains the pattern of attacks and challenges to the judicial system, slowly undermining the rule of law, freedoms and human rights in the territory.”

“Beijing’s priority is to incrementally increase control over Hong Kong, motivated by ideas of territorial integrity and the fear of foreign influences, central to its internal nationalist discourses. Hence, prospects for genuine universal suffrage are dim.”

Across nine chapters, the report touched issues such as the controversial national education curriculum, abuses of police power, Beijing’s interpretations of the Basic Law, the erosion of press freedom, “red capital” from China influencing the city, and the alleged kidnapping of booksellers, among other concerns.

Nathan Law
Nathan Law. Photo: In-Media.

Demosisto party chair Nathan Law, who was released on bail from jail recently, wrote his piece for the report whilst in prison.

“The British Foreign Office’s latest six-monthly report on Hong Kong insists that the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework is in good shape. To those of us in Hong Kong, that was a rather frustrating remark,” he wrote. “As political suppression here intensifies, London must revaluate its past statements on Hong Kong, and make fairer comments on our democratic endeavour.”

Among the other authors were Benedict Rogers, the Conservative Party activist barred from entering Hong Kong who is set to launch an NGO – Hong Kong WatchHong Kong scholar Joseph Lian, who was a former top adviser to the city’s government; and Edward Leung, a Hong Kong Indigenous activist who is to face rioting charges next year.

Hugh Llewelyn Davies, the British Senior Representative and Ambassador to the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group before the Handover, said Britain had a long and often mutually beneficial partnership with Hong Kong, and still retains strong economic and social links.

“Thirty years of the 50 years laid down in the Joint Declaration still lie ahead. Britain is fully committed to standing by Hong Kong throughout that period – and indeed beyond it,” he wrote.

Henry Jackson Society Hong Kong
Authors of the report with Hongkongers outside the Parliament. Photo: Henry Jackson Society.

The report recommended that the UK foreign office sponsor high-profile visits by key Hongkongers to engage with parliamentarians, members of the judiciary, academics, human rights advocates, and increase capacity and resources for monitoring the situation in Hong Kong.

It also advised the Parliament to form a separate All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong, and to re-launch the aborted 2017 Foreign Affairs Committee Inquiry UK Relations with China Inquiry.

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.