Changes to Hong Kong’s political system imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) amid a continued crackdown on public dissent have turned the city’s legislature into a “rubber stamp” and have undermined the independence of judges, according to a US government report.
“Changes to Hong Kong’s elections and the make-up of its legislative assembly now ensure that pro-Beijing lawmakers will always have a majority, turning the once competitive Legislative Council into an approving parliament,” the Commission said. Chinese-US Economic and Security Review (ESRC) said this week in its annual report to Congress.
Meanwhile, judges in cases brought under a draconian national security law that came into force on 1st of July, 2020 are now chosen from a list approved by the CCP-backed national security apparatus, “effectively depriving the Hong Kong justice system of its former independence,” according to the report.
“The changes allow the Hong Kong government to ensure that all national security cases are assigned to preferred pro-government judges, ensuring a favorable outcome for the government and the CCP,” he said.
Taiwanese strategic analyst Shih Chien-yu said he was surprised the report named some national security judges, suggesting that the United States had done very detailed research for the report.
“This is a review of the erosion of judicial independence in Hong Kong over the past year and the principles underlying a fair trial,” Shih told RFA. ” He names [judges] to show that the situation deteriorated very quickly.
“The criticism is very direct, showing that [the authors] believes that the situation is already very serious and that it is unlikely to change, “he said.
PCC version of the story
The report also cites new powers given to the government to prevent people from entering and leaving the city, amid a net exodus of tens of thousands of permanent residents the year after the law came into force. .
Radical changes to the city’s educational program now require teachers to provide CCP-approved versions of the story, in a culture of informing anyone who criticizes the government in the classroom, which is prohibited by the Law on national security, according to the report.
“The authorities are using these new powers to shoot [teachers] for unapproved speech, “he said.” Educators are forced to distort reality and history to portray the [CCP] in a positive light. “
He said the government also has the power and ability to impose internet censorship in Hong Kong at any time, as part of an ongoing crackdown on media criticism of the government, including shutting down forced by the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper and the arrest of several senior journalists.
Hong Kong Democracy Council founder Samuel Chu said the report accurately reflects the reality of Hong Kong – that the city now looks a lot like any other part of China.
“They recommend very specific actions, such as treating Hong Kong as part of China’s accession to the WTO, and how [China] remove or use US companies to advance their plans in Hong Kong, ”Chu said.
Political commentator Joseph Cheng said the wording of the report makes it very clear that Hong Kong is now under authoritarian rule.
“This report attaches great importance to freedoms [once] appreciated by the people of Hong Kong, especially regarding immigration and emigration, ”said Cheng.
“They are primarily concerned about … whether Hong Kong people will be subject to unnecessary and unjustified restrictions on leaving Hong Kong,” he said.
“The report is a pretty damning criticism of Hong Kong.”
Jimmy Lai honored
The Hong Kong government rejected the findings.
“The [Hong Kong] the government once again urges the United States to respect international law and basic standards governing international relations, ”he said in a statement on November 18.
“Any attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs through Hong Kong will not succeed and we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to resolutely protect national security.”
In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) went to jail Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai with his 2021 Gwyn Ifill Press Freedom Award.
“Lai has become a powerful symbol of the struggle to maintain press freedom in Hong Kong as the Chinese Communist Party exercises increasing control over the territory,” CPJ said in a statement on its website Internet.
“In prison, deprived of bail, the virulent critic of the Chinese government and defender of democracy faces charges that could keep him in prison for the rest of his life,” he said.
Lai is on trial under the National Security Act for “collusion with a foreign power”, linked to alleged attempts to pressure the United States to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.