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Hong Kong - EU Annual Reports on Human Rights and Democracy

29/06/2021 - 10:31
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The Council of the EU adopted the EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world for 2020. The report found that in 2020, the erosion of rights and freedoms, that were meant to be protected until at least 2047, accelerated in Hong Kong.

EU Annual Report Human Rights 2020

 

 

1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: In 2020, the erosion of rights and freedoms, that were meant to be protected until at least 2047, accelerated in Hong Kong. Interventions by the mainland authorities called into question China’s willingness to uphold its international commitments and the Hong Kong Basic Law.

The imposition on 30 June of a National Security Law (NSL) through a decision by the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPCSC) raised grave concerns. Numerous pro-democracy activists, lawmakers and journalists were arrested during the year, including on NSL and public order charges.

The trend towards self-censorship in the media, academia and civil society has accelerated.

The Legislative Council (LegCo) elections that were due to take place on 6 September were postponed for one year, with the government citing the COVID-19 outbreak as justification. The NPCSC issued a decision to extend the term of LegCo pending the elections.

Most lawmakers from the opposition pan-democrat camp decided to continue serving for the period of the extension. However, on 11 November, the NPCSC adopted a decision that allowed lawmakers to be immediately disqualified by the executive without any due process, right of appeal or involvement of the judicial authorities. The Hong Kong Government immediately declared four sitting pan-democrat lawmakers to have been disqualified under the decision. Further 15 pan-democrat lawmakers subsequently resigned in protest.

In December, prominent pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam were incarcerated after convictions for unlawful assembly. Another prominent pro-democracy figure, media executive Jimmy Lai, was denied bail. Several others left Hong Kong to seek asylum.

 

 

The EU repeatedly expressed its grave concern at steps taken by China that are not in conformity with its international commitments (Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984) and the Hong Kong Basic Law. The EU recalled that these steps seriously undermine the 'one country, two systems' principle and the high degree of autonomy of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.

The EU has highlighted that the NSL presents concerns, particularly in relation to the lack of safeguards and clarity in the law, and its extraterritorial provisions.

The EU is further engaging with and supporting civil society in Hong Kong and observing the trials of pro-democracy activists.

The EU has voiced its concerns regarding the situation in Hong Kong in its contacts with the Chinese authorities at the highest level, including at the summit in June, and the Leaders’ Meetings held in September and December.

The EU also expressed its position through a series of public statements, notably though the EU declarations of 22 and 29 May, 1 July, 3 August and 12 November 2020. G7 Foreign Ministers, including the HR/VP, issued a statement on 17 June 2020. The HR/VP Spokesperson issued statements on the human rights situation in Hong Kong on 10 August, 24 September, 2 November and 29 December 2020.

The European Parliament held an urgency debate on Hong Kong and adopted a resolution by a wide majority on 19 June 2020.

Following the imposition of the NSL, the EU adopted an initial response comprising a package of measures to be taken at national and/or EU level (Council conclusions of 28 July). Key actions taken under the Council conclusions include: the suspension by six EU Member States of their extradition agreements, or negotiations for such an agreement; heightened scrutiny by Member States’ authorities of relevant exports for end-use in Hong Kong; coordination by EU and Member States diplomatic representatives in Hong Kong to observe court hearings of pro-democracy activists; and intensification of their contacts with civil society organisations. Hong Kong students, academic and university staff remain encouraged to participate in higher-education exchanges under Erasmus+ and bilateral exchange schemes run by Member States. No new negotiations with Hong Kong were launched. At the Foreign Affairs Council of 7 December, it was agreed to pursue the implementation of the measures contained in the Council conclusions, and to consider additional measures in case of a further deterioration.  

he EU is looking at possibilities to step up its engagement and support for Hong Kong civil society, in line with Council conclusions. The annual EU-Hong Kong workshop on trafficking in human beings took place in December in a virtual format.

The EU repeatedly called on China to uphold its national and international obligations and to respect human rights in Hong Kong. At the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the EU expressed its concerns in its item 4 statement on situations that require the Council’s attention, as well as in the EU statement at the end of the 43rd session and the opening of the 44th session.

The Human Rights Committee began its latest periodic review of compliance by Hong Kong SAR with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The EU reiterated its position on Hong Kong at the UNGA Third Committee on 5 October 2020.

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