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December, 6, 2016

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HK shouldn't apologize for China

Last Tuesday, the British Government issued its long-awaited six-monthly report on Hong Kong — something it has done regularly since the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, and which the UK government promised parliament that it would do for 50 years.

The chaos of Brexit and the change in prime minister may well have contributed to the delay in the report for the January-June 2016 period but the report, when it came, did not disappoint.

The new British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, instead of attempting to get rid of Hong Kong as an irritant in the UK's attempt to expand economic relations with China, voiced concerns expressed by his predecessor, Philip Hammond, about the integrity of Hong Kong's law enforcement, citing the Hong Kong booksellers case, who specialized in sensitive books on Chinese leaders.

Speaking of one of the five booksellers, Lee Bo, a British citizen, Mr. Johnson said, "Mr. Lee's involuntary removal from Hong Kong to the mainland constituted a serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration by undermining the 'one country, two systems' principle."

'Unwarranted accusations'

However, on the whole, the report took the view that the "one country, two systems" principle "has served Hong Kong well in the 19 years since the handover" and provides confidence that it is "fit to continue far into the future."

As expected, the Chinese government condemned the report. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said it contained "unwarranted accusations against China."

"No country has the right to interfere," the spokesman said. "We require the British side to be discreet in word and deed and stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs."

Actually, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984, says specifically that the United Kingdom and China "agree to implement" both the declaration and its annexes until 2047, seemingly giving Britain the right to speak up if things go wrong — or right — in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong administration, too, issued a statement, insisting that all was well. It asserted that Hong Kong was, indeed, exercising the high degree of autonomy it had been promised, and that, as for the booksellers case, the Hong Kong police "have not discovered any evidence indicating there was 'law enforcement across the boundary.'"

Of course, not being able to uncover evidence doesn't mean the abduction of a bookseller did not occur. It would be more comforting for Hong Kong's people if their government were to publicly remind the mainland authorities not to violate the Joint Declaration and Basic Law.

Instead, the Hong Kong government reinforced the Chinese Foreign Ministry warning to Britain by saying that foreign governments should not interfere in the internal affairs of Hong Kong.

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