The European Union has expressed concerns about the “gradual erosion” of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle in its annual report on Hong Kong, saying it gives rise to questions about the city’s long-term degree of autonomy.

The 2017 report – by the European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – said the city’s rule of law, transparent regulatory framework and very low levels of corruption and crime, along with an efficient public administration and an independent judiciary, contributed to Hong Kong’s success. These factors fostered a favourable investment climate, it said.

“Despite some challenges, overall the ‘one country, two systems’ principle worked well. However, concerns about its gradual erosion give rise to legitimate questions about its implementation and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy in the long term,” the report said.

flag raising ceremony
A flag raising ceremony. Photo: GovHK.

“Free speech and freedom of information are generally respected. However, two negative trends became more pronounced: self-censorship when reporting on China’s domestic and foreign policy developments, and pressure on journalists.”

The report named the disqualifications of opposition lawmakers, ongoing court cases against Occupy activists, and the controversial high-speed railway joint checkpoint arrangement among challenges to the city’s judicial independence in 2017.

“Despite a number of challenges, judicial independence and full respect for the rule of law were maintained in 2017. These are vital if Hong Kong is to maintain its democratic credentials, its standing as an international business centre, and its ambitions to consolidate its role as an international centre for arbitration and mediation,” the report said.

The EU maintained its stance that it was important for Hong Kong and Beijing to resume democratic electoral reform in line with the Basic Law in order to give the SAR government greater public support and legitimacy.

The Hong Kong government issued a standard statement in response to the report. The same statement has been used many times in response to media enquiries about reports from foreign governments and organisations.

Civic Square, Hong Kong government headquarters
Civic Square, Hong Kong government headquarters. File Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

“Since the return to the Motherland, the HKSAR has been exercising a high degree of autonomy and ‘Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong’ in strict accordance with the Basic Law. This demonstrates the full and successful implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, which has been widely recognised by the international community,” a spokesman said.

“Foreign institutions should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of the HKSAR.”

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.