The European Parliament has condemned the “constant interference” of China in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, warning that it may put at risk the long-term viability of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.
At a plenary session on Hong Kong, Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said: “We care about Hong Kong. And we know that its autonomy has been the foundation of its success.”
He said “One Country, Two Systems” has come under increasing pressure: “The rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Hong Kong have been questioned. The implementation of the electoral reform has been postponed.”
“On top of this, we cannot forget the case of the five book publishers who went missing in 2015: to us, that is the most serious challenge to the Basic Law since 1997. And unfortunately, it is not an isolated event.”
The parliament adopted more than 30 recommendations for the EU’s institutions, including that they should express firm support for the start of a political reform process which complies with international standards and the Basic Law.
They were also recommended to urge the city’s Court of Final Appeal to consider the cases of pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow in accordance with Hong Kong’s obligations under international human rights law, and to urge the Hong Kong government to revise the Public Order Ordinance in order to bring it in line with international human rights standards.
The EU was recommended to express concern towards the increasing harassment of opposition political parties, and to condemn threats to the personal safety of pro-democracy politicians, including abductions and physical violence. It should also express concern towards the refusal of the Companies Registry to register a number of pro-democracy groups.
Another recommendation said institutions should express regret over the disqualification of six candidates in the Legislative Council election last year.
The European Parliament added that the EU should express deep concern about Beijing’s Basic Law interpretations prior to court rulings, which it said undermined trust in the full independence of the judiciary.
It said the EU should reiterate that any potential national security law must not interfere with the independence and exclusive jurisdiction of the Hong Kong judiciary and should not undermine the city’s international obligations and freedom.
It added that the EU should raise concerns over other items including: cross-border law enforcement in Hong Kong, increasing self-censorship of media, tightening of control over the sale of sensitive political books by monopolising ownership of bookshops, academic freedom, the controversy over the Express Rail Link, and tax fraud, among others.
It also called for the timely adoption of an anti-discrimination law.
Joint declaration ‘called into question’
“Even though the Basic Law, the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle are largely respected, there are growing and widespread concerns that the agreed high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong, or the legal value, or the spirit of the Sino-British Joint Declaration have been called into question,” the Parliament suggested to the EU.
“Even though recent surveys show that many inhabitants of Hong Kong wish to emigrate, it would be unfortunate if Hong Kong could not keep its brightest and best, and troubling if so many, particularly young people, were to lose their faith in the future.”
It asked the EU to emphasise that respecting Hong Kong’s autonomy is essential for its further positive development and favourable relations with the mainland, and for the resumption of the dialogue between the mainland and Taiwan.
Andriukaitis, a medical doctor and the former Minister of Health of Lithuania before becoming the EU’s Commissioner with responsibility for health and food safety, said, “Our dialogue is very open, and our message to our Chinese friends is very clear. Preserving ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is in their best interest, and we are ready to work with them to make this happen.”
The recommendations came after the recent visit of two members of the European Parliament, Jo Leinen and Frank Engel, and European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, to Hong Kong. Chief Executive Carrie Lam was invited to visit Brussels.