Former chief secretary Anson Chan has said that the Hong Kong government must heed warnings about growing interference from Beijing, as outlined in a new US trade policy report.

The statement came  a few days after the US State Department said in its annual Hong Kong report that China’s intervention in the city’s affairs had increased, though the territory continues to enjoy enough autonomy to justify special treatment in trade with the US. Under the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, Washington’s special trade and economic policy towards Hong Kong – different from that afforded to China – is only justified if Hong Kong remains “sufficiently autonomous.”

Anson Chan
Anson Chan speaking at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, United States. Photo: Supplied to HKFP.

Chan said at an event hosted by conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC on Monday that it was a cause of dismay that top Hong Kong government officials brushed aside the concerns voiced in the US report.

“The fact is that the withdrawal of Hong Kong’s special status under the Policy Act, even if only partially at first, would be a body-blow to Hong Kong’s economy, international standing and perceptions that One Country Two Systems remains a reality,” the former deputy leader said.

“That Hong Kong remains a trusted trading partner of the United States is vitally important, not just to the large local and overseas companies and financial institutions with headquarters or regional offices in the city, but to the many thousands of small and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of our economy and people’s livelihood.”

The US report sparked a backlash from the Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong, who lambasted it as foreign interference.

Anson Chan Dennis Kwok
Anson Chan (left) and Dennis Kwok (right). Photo: Supplied to HKFP.

A delegation of Hong Kong politicians including Chan and lawmakers Dennis Kwok and Charles Mok had met with the congressional US-China Economic and Security Review Commission to discuss pressures on the One Country Two Systems principle. The principle pledges to safeguard the city’s own laws and way of life for at least 50 years after the 1997 handover.

During the meeting, Mok said that all who uphold democratic values should be vigilant against the spread of authoritarianism, not only those who are under its immediate threat. Meanwhile, Kwok said Hong Kong continues to uphold democratic values and attested to the independence of its judiciary.

Extradition plans

The committee reportedly enquired about the proposed changes to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance which would allow Hong Kong to handle extradition requests from jurisdictions where there are no pre-existing arrangements, most notably from mainland China and Taiwan. The group said they were worried that the amendments could subject US citizens living in or transiting through Hong Kong to trials in the mainland “where criminal justice is dubious.”

Dennis Kwok Charles Mok
Dennis Kwok (left) and Charles Mok (right).

Other topics discussed in the meeting included press freedom, internet freedom, and the potential impact of the Greater Bay Area scheme upon Hong Kong’s core values. The committee will visit Hong Kong in May.

Hong Kong ranks the world’s freest economy in the Heritage Foundation’s 2019 annual Index of Economic Freedom.

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Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.