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Five Eyes countries express 'grave concern' over erosion of democratic elements in Hong Kong

Five Eyes countries express 'grave concern' over erosion of democratic elements in Hong Kong
UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand issue joint statement after Sunday's election in Hong Kong

LONDON (AA) – The UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand on Monday expressed their “grave concern over the erosion of democratic elements of the Special Administrative Region’s electoral system” in Hong Kong.

“Actions that undermine Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy are threatening our shared wish to see Hong Kong succeed,” said a joint statement from the foreign ministers and secretaries of the countries, who share an intelligence partnership called the Five Eyes.

It said diverse political views have been contested in Hong Kong elections since the British handover of authority over the territory to China in 1997, but “yesterday’s election has reversed this trend.”

“The overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system introduced earlier this year reduced the number of directly elected seats and established a new vetting process to severely restrict the choice of candidates on the ballot paper,” it added.

The statement also argued that those changes “eliminated any meaningful political opposition.”

“Meanwhile, many of the city’s opposition politicians – most notably the majority of the ‘NSL 47’ - remain in prison pending trial, with others in exile overseas.”

-‘Chilling effect’ of National Security Law

Also expressing concern over the “wider chilling effect of the National Security Law and the growing restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, which are being felt across civil society,” the statement said: “NGOs, trade unions and human rights organizations not supportive of the government’s agenda have been forced to disband or leave, while media freedoms are being curtailed at pace.”

The UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand also urged China “to act in accordance with its international obligations to respect protected rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, including those guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”

The joint statement came after Sunday’s legislative election in Hong Kong, with the poll taking place under new “patriots only” rules imposed by China. The turnout was around 30%, according to Hong Kong election officials.

Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous region which has been part of China since 1997, when the UK handed over the former colony to Beijing.

The autonomous region witnessed large protests in 2019 against a move to legalize the extradition of accused people to mainland China.

source: News Feed
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