Chief Executive Carrie Lam has criticised a report by UK group Hong Kong Watch as foreign “meddling” in Hong Kong’s affairs.
In his report, House of Lords member Paddy Ashdown said the abduction of Hong Kong booksellers, the retrial and sentencing of democracy activists, the disqualification of lawmakers, and the recent joint checkpoint arrangement, all “set a dangerous precedent and could undermine confidence in the rule of law.” He also said “the rule of law is under real and increasing pressure from Beijing.”
Lam told reporters on Tuesday: “The nature of this is that a foreign institution meddled in the internal affairs of our country and Hong Kong… One of its leaders is still a member of a foreign parliament – I believe such meddling is very inappropriate.”
“I take great exception to the comments and conclusions in that report. Those comments are totally unfounded and unfair – to attack the rule of law in Hong Kong, and to allege that… ‘China continues to erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms, thereby breaching an international treaty’ – is totally unfounded. We have seen no evidence of that,” she said, referring to the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
“Quite on the contrary, the Central People’s Government has been fully backing Hong Kong and supporting Hong Kong in our economic and social development.”
Ashdown visited Hong Kong last November. Lam said his visit was very brief and he may have only spoken to some politicians and legal experts.
“I have time and again stressed that the core values of Hong Kong include the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary,” Lam said. “I will do my utmost to safeguard those core values.”
Hong Kong Watch was formed last year by UK conservative human rights activist Benedict Rogers, of which Ashdown is a Patron.
Lam urged the group to read “objective opinions” from local and British senior lawyers over the recent judgment handed down to pro-democracy activists.
The Court of Final Appeal heard the cases of Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow on Tuesday. A judgment will be handed down at a later date.
Lam also criticised pro-democracy politicians: “When our country’s institution in Hong Kong is working for the benefits of Hong Kong, it is criticised and attacked by some politically sensitive opposition figures.
“But when foreign organisation meddle in Hong Kong affairs or harm Hong Kong’s name, I don’t see this same group of people express strong opinions. Some of them may even agree with it – I am very worried.”
She spoke after denying the China Liaison Office was meddling in Hong Kong affairs.
In the report, Ashdown said functional constituencies “are the worst legacy left behind by Britain.”
The constituencies consist of professional or special interest groups. Thirty of the 70 seats in the legislative council are elected by Hong Kong’s 28 functional constituencies, with another five from the District Council (Second) functional constituency.
“They continue to be a major barrier to the realisation of universal suffrage in Hong Kong,” he said.
He also said the changes made to the legislature’s house rules to increase the powers of the Legislative Council president reduced the ability of pro-democracy groups – who represent the majority of Hong Kong’s people – to properly scrutinise and question legislation.
On the looming national security law, Ashdown said the legislation must conform to international human rights standards and must only be enacted after appropriate consultation with stakeholders from across Hong Kong.
He also reinstated his support for extending the right of abode in the UK for British National (Overseas) passport holders, if the situation concerning basic freedoms, human rights, the rule of law and autonomy in Hong Kong deteriorates to such an extent that the holders feel so vulnerable that they cannot live in Hong Kong any longer.
A government spokesperson said also criticised the report on Tuesday: “Foreign organisations should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of the HKSAR.”