On 30 June, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress adopted the National Security Law in Hong Kong, which came into effect that day, the 23rd anniversary of the city´s handover to China from British rule. Under the law approved by mainland China´s legislature in May, Beijing will have sweeping new powers to impose sentences, including life imprisonment. This represents a direct assault on the city´s high degree of autonomy and runs contrary to the freedoms that were guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” principle, and is, furthermore, in violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament reiterates the serious concerns set out in Parliament´s resolution dated 19 June and reiterates the European Parliament’s call for adequate consequences to be drawn if the law is not withdrawn. In particular, the Conference of Presidents is deeply worried about the erosion of fundamental human rights as enshrined in Hong Kong´s Basic Law, including the freedom of speech, of the press and publication, and of association, assembly, procession and demonstration.
The European Parliament stands in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong who have taken to the streets to protest peacefully, and it calls for the immediate release and dropping of all charges against those detained for the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression since democratic protests started in 2019. This includes the immediate release of Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai who has been arbitrarily detained.
“We urge China to withdraw this law, which violates the promises made to Hong Kong citizens under the Hong Kong Basic Law and violates China’s binding international obligations. It clearly damages China’s standing in the international community. The EU is always open for dialogue with the Hong Kong government and China on this matter. But the imposition of this law is unacceptable and of utmost concern and, in the absence of any progress, the EU will consider taking appropriate measures in this regard.”
The ALDE Group in the Parliament issued a statement declaring that “The imposition of a wide-ranging draconian national security law on the people of Hong Kong by China has shattered the “one country two systems” agreement and marks the end of Hong Kong as we knew it. These are dark days for liberty and freedoms. An authoritarian chill has swept through Hong Kong harbour.”
“Rushing to implement this law, without any consultations with the people of Hong Kong or event informing the Beijing-appointed Chief Executive of the final text before its adoption, demonstrates how little disregard China has for suppressing democratic human rights, cracking down on personal civil liberties and freedoms, and going back on promises it makes internationally.”
“We call for the European Union to strongly condemn China and show its support for the citizens of Hong Kong who wish to maintain their way of life, their freedoms of expression and protest, and seek to promote democracy.”
“European liberals and ALDE member parties will stand with Liberal International and the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) to defend the democratic rights of the Hong Kong people.”
“As a co-signatory to the Sino-British Joint Declaration we welcome the UK Government’s citizenship offer to Hong Kong citizens, but all Hong Kongers must have their rights and freedoms protected, regardless of BNO status.”
With Beijing now reported by the media to be removing books about democracy from Hong Kong libraries, the situation risks spiralling out of control into an Orwellian nightmare of totalitarian suppression of rights.