The United States Department of State has said that one of the most important human rights problems in Hong Kong is the lack of free and fair elections.
The 2014 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in the territory, released on Thursday, also highlights the erosion of press freedom, violence against reporters, and “a legislature with limited powers in which certain sectors of society wielded disproportionate political influence.”
The report said last year’s Umbrella Movement was triggered by the central government’s proposed framework for implementing universal suffrage, which limited the choice of candidates. It stated that the lack of free and fair elections restricts residents’ right to change the government, and that functional constituencies give some sectors more power than others.
Claims of excessive force used by police during the protests were also noted in the US report, which argues that “aggressive police tactics” damage freedom of assembly.
Addressing freedom of press, the report noted several high profile incidents in 2014 including the attack on former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau Chun-to. It said that although police in Hong Kong and mainland China arrested some suspects, no progress was made on determining the attackers’ motives or who ordered their attack. Authorities also failed to make progress in investigating attacks on Next Media and Sun Affairs owner Chen Ping in 2013.
The report cited Commercial Radio’s sacking of on-air host and outspoken government critic Li Wei-ling and the closure of House News as examples of censorship. It stated that self-censorship remains a problem in Hong Kong as most media organisation owners retain business interests in the mainland.
The Hong Kong government issued a response on Friday, rebutting allegations made in the report and urging the US government to stop interfering with Hong Kong’s internal affairs.
The statement said the SAR government’s electoral reform plan was in line with the law and it was “unfortunate” that it didn’t pass at the Legislative Council.
“We reiterate that constitutional development is entirely an internal affair of our Country, including the HKSAR. Foreign governments should respect this principle and should not interfere in any manner,” the statement said.
On law enforcement, the statement insisted the police force dealt with all unlawful acts “appropriately and independently.” On freedom of speech and freedom of press, the government said they are the city’s core values and vowed to continue safeguarding them.
Meanwhile, Beijing has chided the US for its “terrible human rights record.” A statement released by the State Council press office on Friday said the US is plagued by gun violence, police brutality, racism and money-oriented politics. It also condemned Washington for its massive surveillance programme on its people and leaders of foreign countries. On the same day, China also issued a report on the human rights situations in the US.