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EU deplores 'decline' of democracy in Hong Kong

The assessment came in the bloc's latest annual report on the Chinese island territory
The European Union in its latest annual report on Hong Kong warns that democracy and rights have declined further in 2022 on the Chinese island territory

The European Union in its latest annual report on Hong Kong warns that democracy and rights have declined further in 2022 on the Chinese island territory. (Photo: Canva)

Published: August 19, 2023 05:18 AM GMT

The European Union warned Friday that democracy and rights in Hong Kong declined further in 2022, casting doubt on China's vow to maintain "one country, two systems".

The assessment came in the bloc's latest annual report on the Chinese island territory.

Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Britain handing Hong Kong back to China in return for its promise to continue to allow the territory continued autonomy and freedoms.

The European Union said the implementation of a 2020 national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong and the installation of a chief executive, John Lee, following sweeping changes to electoral laws headlined its evaluation.

"In parallel, 2022 saw the continuing erosion of Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and of rights and freedoms that were meant to be protected until at least 2047," the EU report said.

It said developments stemming from those changes "increasingly cast doubt on the state of the rule of law in Hong Kong -– a cornerstone of its economic success".

The EU noted a curbing of media and internet freedoms, a mass trial of 47 pro-democracy lawmakers and activists, the prosecution of media tycoon Jimmy Lai and restrictions on freedom of assembly and the right to unionize.

On the economic front, Hong Kong was still "very open" and kept monetary and trade independence, ensuring it remained a favored investment destination despite falling into recession last year, the report said.

Yet the political changes sweeping the territory were having a "negative effect" on business sentiment, especially in foreign companies, which was already weighed down by remnants of highly restrictive Covid-19 measures, it said.

EU companies formed the biggest foreign business community in Hong Kong, ahead of those from Japan, the United States and Britain.

The European bloc said that a dialogue it once held regularly with Hong Kong did not happen last year, for the third year in a row, with travel blocks left over from the Covid pandemic preventing high-level visits.

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