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EU considers fact-finding visit to Hong Kong over poll reforms

Trade bloc concerned that changes in the electoral system were aimed at boosting the number of pro-Beijing candidates

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: June 10, 2021 10:56 AM GMT

Updated: June 10, 2021 11:05 AM GMT

EU considers fact-finding visit to Hong Kong over poll reforms
Hong Kong activist Chow Hang Tung speaks to the media after she was released from police detention on bail on June 5, a day after her arrest. (Photo: NewsEyePress via AFP)

A top diplomat of the European Union (EU) has said the powerful trade bloc will consider sending a delegation to Hong Kong in the wake of China revamping the electoral process in the semi-autonomous territory.

Josep Borrell, EU’s top diplomat, said the changes in the electoral system were aimed at boosting the number of pro-Beijing candidates in the administrative system of Hong Kong.

The new measures that China introduced reportedly reduced the number of lawmakers who can be elected directly by Hong Kong residents.

"A visit of high-level EU officials will be considered," Borrell said in a June 9 statement.

The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) gave the green signal to electoral reforms last March. The Hong Kong Legislative Council accepted them in May.

The move to dispatch a high-level delegation to Hong Kong may not go well with Beijing, which sees it as interference in its domestic affairs.

The EU calls on China to act in accordance with its international commitments and its legal obligations

The EU’s new move will further sour Sino-EU trade ties, observers say.

Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997 when it was handed over to China under an agreement that its democratic systems would be left unchanged for 50 years unit 2047.

However, since April 2020, Hong Kong has witnessed massive and bloody protests on the street led by mostly young people who say the communist policies imposed on their island increasingly take away their democratic rights.

According to the EU, the electoral reforms run against China’s pledge to give the city 50 years of autonomy under a "one country, two systems" framework, agreed in 1997.
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Articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution, call for universal suffrage in the elections of the city’s chief executive and the legislative council.

“The EU calls on China to act in accordance with its international commitments and its legal obligations and to respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms,” Borrell said.

China effected electoral reforms in the autonomous region to quell the pro-democracy movement which gained traction in 2019 and to deter external forces' “interference in the affairs of Hong Kong.”

Borrell said the EU would ramp up its cooperation with civil society groups in Hong Kong.

“The EU "will intensify its response to the situation in Hong Kong, notably through increasing support to its civil society and media,” Borrell’s statement said.

The details of electoral reforms in Asia’s leading financial hub have not been made public yet.

In May, when the electoral process came into force, the EU had warned China, saying it violated human rights

However, according to the South China Morning Post, the legislative council will get 20 additional members handpicked by the election committee, which also selects the city's chief executive.

It will allow the election committee to nominate 30 seats in an expanded 90-seat Hong Kong legislature, according tothe newspaper, owned by Ali Baba Group, a Chinese multinational technology company.

In May, when the electoral process came into force, the EU had warned China, saying it violated human rights.

Reacting to EU criticism, the Chinese mission to the EU had asked the 27-member trading bloc to desist from interfering in Hong Kong's and other Chinese domestic affairs.

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