Taiwan expresses concern over Hong Kong's diminishing freedoms

07/01/2022 09:44 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, July 1 (CNA) As Beijing and Hong Kong authorities marked the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China Friday, Taiwan's government and political parties expressed concern over deteriorating freedoms in the territory under China's tightened rule.

The Hong Kong government held a ceremony in the day to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the transfer of the former British colony's sovereignty to China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who last visited Hong Kong in 2017, attended the ceremony, at which he said that Beijing would continue to promote the "one country, two systems" political arrangement for the city as it best serves China's national interest.

In a statement, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's top government agency handling cross-Taiwan Strait affairs, said Hong Kong had suffered a serious setback in terms of its ability to protect democracy, human rights, freedom, and the rule of law, compared to 25 years ago.

Having run Hong Kong as a colony for 155 years, the British government handed the territory back to China on July 1, 1997 in accordance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which guaranteed the city a high degree of autonomy and civil liberties under Beijing's "one country, two systems" arrangement.

However, the Chinese government has since 2017 said the declaration was "an historical document" that no longer has any practical significance.

The MAC argued that the imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 has led to the imprisonment of pro-democracy campaigners and created a chilling effect among media outlets.

In addition, Beijing's overhaul of Hong Kong's electoral system in 2021 has not met the desire of the Hong Kong people to move toward direct popular elections for the city's chief executive, the MAC said.

It called on the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to respect Hong Kong's Basic Law and fulfill their commitments to the international community by guaranteeing Hong Kong people the right to freedom and democracy.

The MAC also urged Beijing to recognize the existence of the Republic of China so as to handle cross-strait relations more pragmatically.

Taiwan would continue to safeguard its democratic way of life, preserve fundamental values, and work with its partners around the world to defend democracy, the MAC said.

Meanwhile, Eric Chu (朱立倫), chairman of Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), took to social media to express similar concerns over Hong Kong's current situation, saying the campaign for democracy in the city has been seriously undermined by the promulgation of the national security law.

Chu said lawmakers, journalists and protesters in Hong Kong can no longer express their opinions freely, and the decline in freedom has caused an exodus of people from the territory.

An authoritarian government will not last long and the people's pursuit of freedom cannot be quelled forever, Chu contended, expressing hopes that one day, people will celebrate Hong Kong's return to freedom instead of its return to any government.

He went on to say that the KMT will fight to defend the Republic of China's democracy and freedom while welcoming Hong Kongers to relocate to Taiwan and make it their home.

In a Facebook post, the New Power Party (NPP) criticized the Chinese government for its "oppressive rule" in Hong Kong, saying that the people of Hong Kong no longer enjoy freedom and the rule of law as a result of Beijing's encroachment.

While the Chinese authorities have trumpeted their governance of Hong Kong, dissidents in the city are surveilled and targeted on security grounds, the NPP said.

It added that a government that pays no regard to public opinion and undermines human rights will eventually be held in disdain.

(By Teng Pei-ju)

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