Hong Kong Politics & Protest

European lawmakers concerned about Hong Kong Basic Law interpretations and media self-censorship

A delegation from the European Parliament has said it is concerned about Beijing’s interpretations of Hong Kong’s de facto constitution and media self-censorship.

MEPs Jo Leinen of Germany and Frank Engel of Luxembourg were in Hong Kong this week and met political figures including the president of the Legislative Council and lawmakers from both the pro-Beijing camp and pro-democracy camp.

Leinen, chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China, said they want to see Hong Kong thrive and flourish: “We are concerned to hear about media self-censorship and about interpretations of the Basic Law prior to court rulings,” he said.

Andrew Leung

Legislative Council President Andrew Leung with head of EU office in Hong Kong Carmen Cano, MEPs Jo Leinen and Frank Engel. Photo: LegCo.

“The rule of law is a keystone of Hong Kong’s unique way of life. It is vital for the city’s international reputation, and integral to the success of ‘one country, two systems’, which we strongly support.”

In October last year, the Hong Kong government brought judicial reviews against democratically-elected lawmakers Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, over the controversial ways they had taken their oaths of office. In the month that followed, Beijing’s top legislature issued a fifth interpretation of the Basic Law since the Handover, demanding lawmakers take oaths sincerely, solemnly, completely and accurately.

statue of justice court

Photo: Court of Final Appeal.

Leung and Yau were then disqualified by the Hong Kong courts. The government challenged four more lawmakers and succeeded in disqualifying them. The absence of six pro-democracy lawmakers sparked the recent fight at the legislature over the changes to the house rules to curb filibustering and strip lawmakers of their power.

The statement did not elaborate on cases of media self-censorship. According to Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders, Hong Kong’s press freedom ranking dropped four places to 73 among 180 countries and regions in the 2017 global index.

Jo Leinen Frank Engel

MEPs Jo Leinen and Frank Engel with lawmakers. Photo: LegCo.

Benjamin Ismaïl, head of Asia-Pacific desk at the NGO, told HKFP in February that there was no shortage of examples showing the erosion of press freedom over the previous year: “Self-censorship is also rampant, and the index is also a reflection of the perception of press freedom by local journalists… A majority have expressed an increasing pressure which results in deliberate self-censorship.”

European lawmakers concerned about Hong Kong Basic Law interpretations and media self-censorship