We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

The Death of Hong Kong’s Freedoms

February 28, 2017 10:34 AM
By Esther Lam in Lib Dem Voice on 27 Feb

HK yellow ribbonThe Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Falkner chaired a discussion on 8th February on the demise of Hong Kong's political freedoms since the transfer of its sovereignty to China. The event was organised by the Henry Jackson Society at the Palace of Westminster.

The speakers were Joshua Wong (a Hong Kong student and co-founder of the political party Demosisto), Angela Gui (daughter of detained publisher Gui Minhai) and Benedict Rogers (Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission).

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule. The freedoms for Hong Kong citizens, guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, have been increasingly undermined, with additional concerns now being raised about the abduction of individuals who are not Chinese citizens and which are taking place beyond Chinese borders.

Gui's father holds only Swedish citizenship but was kidnapped by the Chinese authorities from his holiday home in Thailand in October 2015 after his part in the publication of books critical about Beijing's leaders.

Gui stated that the kidnapping of foreign citizens from foreign territories points to the development of an imperial aspect of Chinese foreign policy where the Chinese government deems Chinese ethnicity, rather than Chinese citizenship, as the source of its authority over certain individuals.

Wong urged the international community to keep a watchful eye on China, stating that Beijing's emphasis on 'prosperity and stability has in reality meant the erosion of political freedoms'.

He also stated that 'it was not easy to fight for democracy in Hong Kong when others [were] more interested in business interests' and that they would 'continue to fight until we have it back'.

Rogers argued that the UK was not living up to its responsibilities as outlined in the Joint Declaration and that the UK has 'a right and an obligation to keep checking if China is keeping its side of the bargain'.

The Sino-British Joint Declaration outlined the 'one country, two systems' principle in which the Chinese government promised to uphold fundamental rights including freedom of speech, freedom of press, judicial autonomy and protection from unlawful detention for a period of 50 years beginning from 1997.

However, since 2002 Hong Kong has dropped from 12th to 70th place in the World Press Freedom Index. To date at least five Hong Kong booksellers have disappeared, believed to have been kidnapped, by Chinese agents for selling or printing books critical of Chinese leaders. In 2016 pro-democracy activists, including Wong, were found guilty of unlawful assembly following their roles in the 2014 Umbrella Movement; a verdict which Amnesty International said was a 'chilling warning for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly' in Hong Kong.

Esther Lam