Saturday

28th May 2022

Opinion

Sunday's election in Hong Kong - what EU can do

  • Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2019 (Photo: etan liam)
Listen to article

On Sunday, the Hong Kong SAR regime is set to appoint a parliament packed full of communist party loyalists in the city's first general election since Beijing's overhaul of the electoral system to ensure only "patriots" hold power.

A mere three of the 153 candidates running for Hong Kong's Legislative Council are democrats, whilst the remaining majority are vetted, hand-picked government footmen, discrediting the notion that this poll - which will no doubt be paraded by the Hong Kong regime as a token of democracy - retains any semblance of legitimacy.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The election will be further tarnished by the total absence - for the first time in Hong Kong's history - of opposition parties, following the all-out war waged by Beijing against the city's historically spirited pro-democracy movement. For the last two years, lawmakers and activists have been, en masse, arbitrarily detained, imprisoned, gagged or forced into exile.

From violently quashing Hong Kong's popular pro-democracy movement in an unprecedented show of police brutality in 2019, to the forced imposition of the national security law last year, Beijing's crusade against democracy, human rights and civil liberties in the territory has been relentless.

The national security law is a purposely imprecise legislation, criminalising any act which could be deemed by Hong Kong's courts as amounting to secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces. And maliciously constructed breaches of this legislation are punishable by up to life imprisonment.

Under the auspices of the law, more than 150 people, including pro-democracy politicians, activists, lawyers and journalists, have been arrested, with many languishing behind bars for months without bail.

It has also become increasingly clear that the Hong Kong regime, commandeering a judiciary weaponised as an instrument of repression, has sought to set dangerous precedents for the upcoming trials of the 100 people charged under the national security law so far.

Over the summer, the first national security trial found the universal slogan of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, 'Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times', as amounting to inciting secession.

Orwellian speech-crime

Speech crime is now a dark reality in Beijing's Orwellian makeover for Hong Kong, and as Amnesty International warned at the time, the ruling "essentially outlaws a popular slogan widely used by the pro-democracy movement and could enable future convictions of numerous other protestors who used it."

These cases offer only a coup d'œil into the Beijing and Hong Kong SAR regimes' systematic violations of democratic freedoms. More than 50 civil society organisations, professional unions, and print media across Hong Kong - from the Tiananmen vigil group to independent newspaper Apple Daily - have closed under the crushing weight of the national security law; their members detained, intimidated, and harassed.

And just this week, jailed founder of Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai, was sentenced to a further 13 months in prison for taking part in a vigil last year commemorating the victims of China's 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

The European Parliament has often condemned in clear terms Beijing's mounting rights abuses in Hong Kong. However, in the executive branch, inaction persists.

Despite inaugurating its Magnitsky-style sanctions regime last year, designed to target those involved in rights violations, the EU, as a whole, has yet to seriously challenge China's aggression in Hong Kong.

In July 2020, the European Council announced a series of measures in response to the imposition of the national security law, including the review of extradition agreements between Member States and Hong Kong, and the stepping up of academic exchanges and scholarships for Hongkongers to study in the EU. These measures, however, are largely yet to be implemented.

The EU has also imposed limited sanctions on Chinese officials guilty of gross human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, but has faltered and failed to act decisively on Hong Kong.

The European Parliament, on the other hand, has led the line on the European stage in standing up to Beijing's litany of repression in Hong Kong, most recently through its adoption of a resolution in September calling for a new EU-China strategy based on respect for democracy and human rights.

It is high time that the Council and the Commission follow this lead, and that the EU, as a reputable champion of democracy, took resolute action on Beijing's systematic degradation of democracy and civil liberties in Hong Kong, suspends further cooperation in trade and customs, and sanctions officials guilty of persecuting freedom-loving Hongkongers.

Standing for Hong Kong means standing for our principles and our long-term interests.

Author bio

Raphaël Glucksmann is a French MEP with the Socialists & Democrats group, and one of 10 individuals in the EU sanctioned by Beijing following criticism of its human rights record.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU: Hong Kong election delay undermines democracy

The EU demands Hong Kong reverse decision to postpone Legislative Council elections by one year, as western powers suspend extradition treaties with the global financial hub given China's controversial national security laws.

EU prepares response to China over Hong Kong

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that the European Union is preparing a "coordinated" package of EU-wide and national measures in response to China's new security law on Hong Kong.

Letter

Right of Reply: Hungarian government

The government in Budapest responds to EUobserver opinion piece "Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?"

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us