Hong Kong: Speech on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP Plenary
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Mr President, Honourable Members,
Elimination of political pluralism, prosecution of the opposition, shrinking space for the civil society, the shutdown of independent media took place in Hong Kong in 2021. Let us be clear, we are witnessing a deterioration of the situation in Hong Kong.
The Legislative Council election on the 19th of December was the first election since the National Security Law and the implementation of sweeping changes in the Hong Kong electoral system. Ahead of the elections, the package of changes introduced to the electoral system and the mass arrest of opposition figures undermined Hong Kong's democratic principles and high degree of autonomy.
Today, with Beijing loyalists taking 89 out of 90 seats in the chamber, legislative proposals – however draconian – would meet minimum resistance, if any.
The elections were followed by the publication by the State Council in Beijing of a white paper on Hong Kong Democratic Progress. This narrative, where a successful democratic system would require the purging of the opposition camp and the vetting of candidates ahead of elections, should be strongly refuted.
In parallel, the National Security Law has been used to stifle political pluralism and the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms that are protected under Hong Kong law and international law. ‘Stand News’ closed in December after its former editors-in-chief were arrested for publishing seditious materials. A few days later, ‘Citizen News’ announced the suspension of its operations for fear that journalists could be accused of violating laws. Prior to that, the closure of the ‘Apple Daily’ gave the overall direction.
China claims that what is happening in Hong Kong is an internal matter. We reject this: The European Union has strong stakes and interests in Hong Kong. The upcoming European Union Annual Report on Hong Kong will reflect the challenges for the people of Hong Kong to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms as guaranteed by the Hong Kong Basic Law.
What is happening constitutes a breach of China’s international commitments, in particular of the Sino-British Joint declaration which was registered with the United Nations as an international treaty and which stated 25 years ago that the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ should remain for a period of 50 years since 1997.
These actions contradict China’s international commitments. The European Union will continue to stand by the people of Hong Kong.
Link to the video (from 52:00): https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-216583