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Hold China to Account for Breaking its Promises to Hong Kong: A Sombre Handover Remembrance

Updated: Jul 5

1 July 2024 – Today, as we mark the twenty-seventh anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, we remember Beijing’s promise that its ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework would ensure Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, rights, and freedoms for 50 years following the handover. This framework was intended to protect Hong Kong's unique way of life, encompassing the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and freedom of speech, press, and assembly, which differ from those in China.

Hong Kong was a place of relative freedom where diverse voices were permitted. In 2019, we witnessed the largest pro-democracy movement in Chinese history. In response, the Chinese Communist Party arrested more than 10,000 people and imposed the draconian National Security law in Hong Kong in 2020, marking a significant departure from the commitments outlined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The disqualification of pro-democracy candidates, the forced closure of numerous pro-democracy media outlets including Apple Daily, and the arrest of its founder Jimmy Lai demonstrated the Chinese Communist Party's determined efforts to stifle dissent and undermine Hong Kong's promised freedoms of speech, press, and assembly.

The National Security Law allows for cases to be tried without a jury and permits trial by judges handpicked by Hong Kong's Chief Executive, rather than through the usual random allocation system. Beijing also has the power to interpret the law, overriding Hong Kong's judicial autonomy. This law has clearly violated the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle that China promised would safeguard Hong Kong’s autonomy and been used to undermine the city's judicial independence.

The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation stands in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong, supporting their efforts to defend their rights, freedoms, and democratic aspirations.

We urge governments around the world to condemn the blatant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, to hold China to account for its destruction of Hong Kong’s freedoms and to exercise caution in their engagements with the Chinese Communist Party, especially in treaty negotiations.

Mark Sabah, Director UK & EU, Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation said:

“The handover of Hong Kong has been tainted by the CCP crackdown on Hong Kong. Freedom has been replaced by authoritarian and draconian courts and judgements, part of a society-wide crackdown on civil liberties. The repeated breaches of international agreements demonstrate a pattern of behaviour where China has repeatedly failed to uphold its legal commitments.

“It is essential that countries draw from the UK’s experience and proceed with utmost vigilance and foresight in their interactions with China, ensuring that international agreements include enforcement mechanisms to ensure that they are respected and upheld to safeguard global peace and security.

“The Hong Kong authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Jimmy Lai and all political prisoners, and we urge the UK Government to take a strong stand against the destruction of the Sino-British Declaration.”

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