Three democratic Legislative Council members, Charles Mok, Kenneth Leung and Jeremy Tam are currently participating in the ‘US-Hong Kong Dialogue’, a roundtable organized by the US non-governmental organization World Affairs Council. Mok, Leung and Tam met with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, US Consul General in Hong Kong, and representatives from the Secretary of State to reflect the latest situation in Hong Kong. Four pro-establishment members from the Legislative Council and the Executive Council and the HKSAR governmemt’s representative in Washington, were also invited to the event.
With the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 in the US Congress and Senate in November 2019, the US Secretary of State will certificate Hong Kong’s autonomy annually and ascertain whether Hong Kong continues to warrant continued special treatment, including the status as a separate customs territory. The HKHRDA also allows for imposing sanctions to individuals responsible for undermining fundamental human rights and autonomy in Hong Kong. It is anticipated that the US Secretary of State will publish the first annual report since HKHRDA is passed before the end of May 2020.
At the meeting, the three democratic LegCo members reiterated the Hong Kong government’s failure to respond to Hong Kong people’s repeated calls for the “five demands”, while violent suppression and mass arrests of citizens continue, and the so-called “dialogue” with the people of Hong Kong ended with no results. The Hong Kong government has shown no real commitment to a fully transparent and independent investigation over police brutality, and continues to bolster the police’s budgets, allowing it to procure more tactical weapons and expand its force through recruitment.
The three democratic LegCo members raised the concern that during the height of the protests in October 2019, the Hong Kong government disqualified Joshua Wong form running for District Council election, and this act might reoccur in the upcoming LegCo election later this year to allow the Beijing government to maintain its control over the legislature through the pro-establishment camp.
The three democratic members called for transparency on the mechanism for initiating the sanctions of the HKHRDA, and demanded more details over the official channels that the public of Hong Kong may provide evidence to the US.
The democrats raised their concerns about the prospects of protesters with criminal record in the Occupy Central movement or the anti-extradition movement to study and work in the United States. Representative of the US Secretary of State reassured that the US Consulate in Hong Kong will not deny visa applications to applicants arrested or detained due to political reasons, according to the protections offered in the HKHRDA.
In the dialogue, Charles Mok expressed his grave worries that the Hong Kong government and the police has stepped up in restricting free flow of information and internet freedom in Hong Kong, through applying for an injunction to limit online speech, and the wide use of hacker software to access the phones of arrested protestors. Mok urged the US to impose forward-looking demands, including imposing sanctions to these encroachments to human rights, and actions by the Hong Kong government such as barring candidates from running for election based on political views.
Kenneth Leung pointed out that the enforcement of the HKHRDA will not affect the normal functioning of businesses in Hong Kong. Leung also pointed out that the activities of the Liaison Office of the Central Government which are against the principles of maintaining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, such as intervening the elections at different levels. He also expressed his concern over whether the government of Hong Kong deliberately chose not to enforce the clause protecting Hong Kong citizens’ personal information from cross-border transfer (section 33 of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance) to allow easier transfer of personal data to the mainland of China.
Jeremy Tam used the example of the Civil Aviation Administration of China threatening Cathay Pacific to dismiss its flight crew who participated in the protests or merely posted on social media, to illustrate China’s increasing pressure to Hong Kong’s freedom of speech. Tam noted these tremendous forces of self-censorship are becoming more common not just in the aviation industry, but also in education, medical services, banking and accounting industries. Such a trend will bring catastrophic effect to Hong Kong’s status as an international financial hub. He criticized Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, for censoring candidates from elections.