Growing restrictions on Hong Kong’s freedoms are hurting business confidence, the United States warned in a report on Friday, accusing the city’s government of sacrificing human rights to support mainland Chinese priorities.
Hong Kong enjoys liberties unseen on the mainland under the “one country, two systems” framework, and has a special trading status with the US based on its autonomy from the mainland.
The US State Department warned of setbacks in freedoms, citing Hong Kong’s expulsion of a British journalist, its ban on a pro-independence party, the barring of candidates from local elections, and a draft law to punish anyone who disrespects the Chinese national anthem.
It warned that the political restrictions were “straining the confidence of the international business community”.
“In some particularly concerning instances, Hong Kong authorities took actions aligned with mainland priorities at the expense of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” it said in its annual report on US-Hong Kong relations.
“The tempo of mainland central government intervention in Hong Kong affairs — and actions by the Hong Kong government consistent with mainland direction –increased, accelerating negative trends seen in previous periods.”
Hong Kong’s recent proposal to amend its laws to allow extradition between Beijing, Macau and Taiwan has raised alarm in political and business circles.
Last year the authorities refused to renew a work visa for the Financial Times’ Asia news editor Victor Mallet after he hosted a talk at the city’s press club by pro-independence activist Andy Chan.
Chan, whose party was banned for “national security” reasons, has called for the US government to re-examine its policy on Hong Kong and reconsider whether the city should continue to enjoy special treatment.
However, the report said Hong Kong maintains a sufficient — “although diminished” — degree of autonomy to justify its special trading status with the United States.
The government has recently barred several pro-democracy candidates from running in local elections, and six opposition lawmakers were disqualified for inserting protests into their oaths of office in 2016-17.