Convenor of Hong Kong 2020, Anson Chan and founder of the Hong Kong Democratic Party, Martin Lee gave evidence at a public inquiry session of the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday (16 July). They explained to Committee members the concerns felt by Hong Kong people at the progressive erosion of the concept of ‘one country, two systems in the past few years. These concerns had been brought to a head by the publication, in June, of the PRC State Council’s White Paper.
In a lively question and answer session, some Committee members queried whether the White Paper really did constitute a change in policy towards Hong Kong on the part of the Central Government. Lee responded that the White Paper effectively redefines Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, by asserting that Beijing has comprehensive jurisdiction over the SAR whereas, under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, the HKSAR is to enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs, and is vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication. Lee also referred to the sections of the Paper that are causing particular alarm to the Hong Kong Judiciary by stating that, when undertaking their duties, Hong Kong judges have a responsibility to safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests and must be ‘loyal to the country’.
Chan criticised the slow progress on constitutional reform and the apparent determination of the Central Government to control the outcome of the election of the Chief Executive in 2017, by stacking the future Nominating Committee with Beijing loyalists and ensuring that candidates they do not approve of are screened out. This would make a mockery of universal suffrage, she said.
She further criticised the UK Government’s Six Monthly Reports to Parliament for turning a blind eye to Central Government interference in the internal administration of Hong Kong and maintaining that ‘one country, two systems’ is working well, when it is not.
Thanking Chan and Lee for their evidence, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Sir Richard Ottoway informed them that the Committee had been monitoring events in Hong Kong for some time. As part of their overall role in examining the policy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Hong Kong, they had decided to commission a report to assess the accuracy of the Six Monthly Reports to Parliament in reflecting the actual situation on the ground.
Chan and Lee said they greatly welcomed this initiative and hoped there would be an opportunity for the Committee to visit Hong Kong in the near future.