The UK and four other nations have issued a joint statement expressing their “grave concerns” after pro-Beijing candidates claimed a victory in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections.
The foreign ministers of Australia Canada New Zealand and the United Kingdom and the United States’ secretary of state said “actions that undermine Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy are threatening our shared wish to see Hong Kong succeed”.
The five nations urged the People’s Republic of China to “act in accordance with its international obligations” to respect protected rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, including those guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Candidates loyal to Beijing won a majority of the seats in Sunday’s election after China passed a resolution to ensure only “patriots” could run.
Since handover, candidates with diverse political views have contested elections in Hong Kong. Yesterday’s election has reversed this trend
Under the new rules, the number of directly elected legislators was reduced from 35 to 20, but the size of the legislature increased from 70 to 90 seats.
Most of the legislators were appointed by largely pro-Beijing bodies, to make sure that they would make up the majority of the legislature.
The election witnessed a record low turnout, reflecting the decline in political engagement after Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral processes.
The foreign ministers and the US secretary of state said in their statement: “We, the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, and the United States Secretary of State, noting the outcome of the Legislative Council elections in Hong Kong, express our grave concern over the erosion of democratic elements of the Special Administrative Region’s electoral system. Actions that undermine Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy are threatening our shared wish to see Hong Kong succeed.
“Since handover, candidates with diverse political views have contested elections in Hong Kong. Yesterday’s election has reversed this trend. The overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system introduced earlier this year reduced the number of directly elected seats and established a new vetting process to severely restrict the choice of candidates on the ballot paper. These changes eliminated any meaningful political opposition.
“Meanwhile, many of the city’s opposition politicians – most notably the majority of the ‘NSL 47’ – remain in prison pending trial, with others in exile overseas.”
The five nations also said they “remain gravely concerned at the wider chilling effect of the National Security Law and the growing restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, which are being felt across civil society”.
They added: “Protecting space for peaceful alternative views is the most effective way to ensure the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. We urge the People’s Republic of China to act in accordance with its international obligations to respect protected rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, including those guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”