Deposited in Parliament by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 15 March 2018. Download the full report here.
This is the 42nd in a series of reports to Parliament on the implementation of the 1984 Sino–British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong. It covers the period from 1 July to 31 December 2017.
On 1 July 2017, Hong Kong marked 20 years since the handover, and, as I said in my statement to Parliament at the time, the UK joined Hong Kong in celebrating the success of the SAR, and its continued prosperity and vitality. The new Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, was also inaugurated as the fourth Chief Executive and first female leader of Hong Kong on 1 July. We were pleased to welcome her to London in September 2017, where a landmark UK–Hong Kong Fintech Bridge agreement was signed. The launch of a new Strategic Dialogue on Trade Partnership between the UK and Hong Kong further reinforced our cooperation as champions of free trade as the UK prepares to leave the EU.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration underpins our commitment and the UK Government remains resolute in monitoring its implementation closely. ‘One Country, Two Systems’ remains the fundamental basis which will ensure that Hong Kong’s success continues well into the future. I welcomed the commitment by Chinese President Xi, during his visit to Hong Kong on 1 July 2017, that “the Central Government will unswervingly implement the policy of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and make sure that it is fully applied in Hong Kong without being bent or distorted”.
I believe it is vital that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is and is seen to be respected in full, allowing the people of Hong Kong and its authorities to tackle important issues for themselves, in accordance with the Joint Declaration.
As well as the ‘Two Systems’ aspect, the UK has been clear that we endorse the importance of ‘One Country’. Our clear position is that we do not see independence as a viable option, as it would be inconsistent with ‘One Country, Two Systems’.
I believe that ‘One Country, Two Systems’ generally functions well. However, the increasing pressure I described in the foreword of my last six-monthly report continued in the second half of 2017, and where we have seen this, we have consistently raised our concerns with the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities.
In October, I paid close attention to the denial of entry to Hong Kong of Ben Rogers, the UK national and human rights activist, and issued a statement expressing my concern and our intent to seek an explanation from the Hong Kong SAR Government and the Chinese authorities. We summoned the Chinese Ambassador and wrote to the Hong Kong SAR Government. Beijing’s involvement in this case has strengthened our view that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is under increasing pressure.
We have also been following closely the issue of the co-located border-control system for the new high-speed rail link to mainland China. The recent Decision made by the Chinese National People’s Congress will allow mainland officials to exercise jurisdiction at the rail terminal inside Hong Kong territory. While the economic case
for the high-speed rail link is clear, it is important that the final arrangements are consistent with the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework. I call on the Chinese and Hong Kong SAR Governments to ensure that the established constitutional framework for any change to the Basic Law is respected to ensure continued confidence in the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle.
The rule of law and independence of the judiciary is the foundation on which Hong Kong’s success and prosperity is built. This reporting period has seen a large number of cases related to the political system come before Hong Kong’s courts, including the disqualification of a further four legislators. The judiciary in Hong Kong remains in high esteem. It will be vital that the Hong Kong SAR Government is seen to use the system of justice fairly in all cases.
I remain committed to ensuring that the strong momentum in the UK’s relationship with Hong Kong is sustained. Hong Kong has a well-deserved reputation as a global financial centre, with strong rule of law and an open society. The UK’s commitment to the Joint Declaration and ‘One Country, Two Systems’ remains as strong as ever. I look forward to continuing to work with the Hong Kong SAR Government to deepen our strong and vital relationship in the future.