The president of Hong Kong’s legislature has criticised a UK parliamentary group after it rescinded an invitation for the city’s lawmakers to attend an upcoming global seminar, calling the move grounded in “political prejudice and hearsay.”

Legislative Council president Andrew Leung at a press conference on Dec. 16, 2022. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Andrew Leung, who leads the Legislative Council, said on Saturday that the UK branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) had attempted to “derogate and sideline Hong Kong.”

The CPA’s executive committee last Friday “unanimously agreed” to withdraw an invitation to lawmakers Dominic Lee and Carmen Kan to attend the 2023 Westminster Seminar on Effective Parliaments, citing the city’s “deteriorating situation,” according to a statement.

The five-day event to discuss issues related to parliamentary democracy and practice is scheduled to take place in London in March. The annual seminar is organised by the UK branch of the CPA, which comprises over 180 legislatures from commonwealth territories around the world.

The event carries “blatant political bias,” Leung said, adding that “each jurisdiction has the right to pursue a political system that can best suit its actual situation, and this right should be respected by other parliamentary bodies.”

Delegates at the Westminster seminar in 2018. Photo: Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, via Facebook.

Hong Kong delegates have attended the Westminster seminar in the past. Last year, lawmakers Tang Fei, Nixie Lam and Lilian Mok were among the representatives that attended virtually.

‘Slanderous’ statement

The withdrawal of the invitation came as the Legislative Council marked a year since its current-term lawmakers were sworn in following Beijing-imposed electoral changes, which ensured that only those deemed “patriots” could run. Of the 90 new lawmakers, only one identifies as not being from the pro-establishment camp.

Authorities, however, maintain that the legislature is politically inclusive and has a diversity of voices.

New People’s Party lawmaker Dominic Lee. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Lee, one of the lawmakers uninvited from the March seminar, said he “strongly condemned” the group’s decision. He added that the UK’s claim about Hong Kong’s “deteriorating situation” was “slanderous” and a form of “political manipulation.”

“We think… the UK is attempting to tarnish the city’s positive governance following the electoral reforms,” Lee said. “This [decision] has made me not really want to set foot into [the UK] in the short term, unless it is for official work duties.

Earlier this month, the UK published its biannual report on Hong Kong, writing that the city’s autonomy was “declining” and that the Beijing-imposed national security law – enacted in the wake of protests and unrest in 2019 – had created “chilling effects” across society.

The UK added that Beijing was “failing to comply” with the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the 1984 treaty outlining the former British colony’s arrangements for its Handover to China per the One Country, Two Systems model, which promises the city a high degree of autonomy.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.