Hong Kong democratic lawmakers lauded a report released by the British House of Commons on China’s erosion of their freedoms but said Friday that they have to be self-reliant in their fight for democracy. The House’s Foreign Affairs Committee released a report late Thursday saying that China’s vetting of Hong Kong’s candidates for the chief executive elections in 2017 did not offer a “genuine choice” to the people of Hong Kong.
"It's the first honorable thing that the British have done in this Hong Kong fight for democracy," said Alan Leong of Hong Kong's Civic Party, according to the Guardian. However, he added, "We in Hong Kong cannot count on and depend on any foreign powers, British included, to help us to get what we want in terms of real democracy." Other pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers welcomed the report, which is titled “The U.K.’s relations with Hong Kong: 30 years after the Joint Declaration."
“I can’t agree more with what they have said; they have certainly spoken out the truth,” said Albert Ho of the Democratic Party, according to the Guardian. The report covered Hong Kong’s progress since the British handed the city over to China in 1997. “Increasing economic integration with mainland China, concurrent with China's rapid growth, has been a major factor in Hong Kong's ongoing economic success. It has also made Hong Kong more economically dependent on China than it was at the time of the handover,” stated the report.
However, Hong Kong has also felt the pressures of Beijing governance as a result of the closer ties. Under the Joint Declaration signed by China on Hong Kong’s handover, Beijing had pledged that Hong Kong’s social and economic systems of Hong Kong would remain unchanged after its return, establishing the “One Country, Two Systems” governance. “We received a large number of submissions claiming that basic rights and freedoms in Hong Kong were being eroded,” stated the report. The committee’s report also said that the city could face a “crisis of governance” unless tensions over its “One Country, Two Systems” governance were resolved.
When China announced its decision to vet candidates for the chief executive elections by a pro-Beijing committee in August last year, Hong Kong residents took to the streets in protest in September -- an event referred to as the Umbrella Revolution. Organizers said that as many as 80,000 people showed up, according to Reuters. Hong Kong leaders said in January that the vote will go on as planned in 2017, and that it will adhere to Beijing’s framework.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that Hong Kong's return to China has been a “great success.” “Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Its affairs are China's domestic affairs. The U.K. has no right to interfere," she said at a briefing Friday, according to Agence France-Presse. Chinese media has attacked the report as “absurd.”
“The wording of the report shows that these British MPs [members of Parliament] are hostile to Hong Kong's development and are still laboring under a colonial mindset,” reported China’s official news agency Xinhua. “They imply in it that the Hong Kong people would rather their government be loyal to the United Kingdom and that the region should follow instructions from politicians of its former ruler.”