Hong Kong hits back at US report critical of Beijing's role

In recent months, Hong Kong has increasingly found itself battling perceptions that the legal and political lines separating it from the mainland have blurred.
In recent months, Hong Kong has increasingly found itself battling perceptions that the legal and political lines separating it from the mainland have blurred.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - The Hong Kong government has hit back at US charges that Beijing was encroaching on the city's autonomy, claims that could put at risk sensitive technology imports.

The response came after an annual congressional report on Wednesday (Nov 14) cited the former British colony's autonomy among areas of US concern as Chinese President Xi Jinping asserts his growing geopolitical and economic might.

As a consequence, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission report urged policymakers to consider Hong Kong's closer mainland ties with regard to "the export of sensitive US technology to Hong Kong", without elaborating.

"The HKSAR Government reiterates that foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of the HKSAR," the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region said in a statement late on Wednesday.

"Since the return to the motherland, the HKSAR has been exercising 'Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong' and a high degree of autonomy in strict accordance with the Basic Law."

Hong Kong accused the report's authors of bias and of making unfounded accusations.

BLURRED LINES

In recent months, Hong Kong has increasingly found itself battling perceptions that the legal and political lines separating it from the mainland have blurred.

Australia blocked CK Group from buying a local pipeline operator this month, days after the city's No. 2 official, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, was forced to defend its free speech protections at a United Nations hearing in Geneva.

The US-China commission's report listed a litany of examples where the Beijing-backed government infringed on the rights and freedoms promised Hong Kong people before the "special administrative region" was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

"Beijing's encroachment on Hong Kong's political system, rule of law, and freedom of expression is moving the territory closer to becoming more like any other Chinese city," the report said.

 
 
 
 

"The territory also faces growing economic competition from mainland cities, which receive increasing investment and incentives," the commission said.

"Over the long term, these trends could diminish Hong Kong's standing as a global business centre."

The report to Congress said that as a key transshipment hub for mainland China, Hong Kong is an "important partner in ensuring robust protections against unauthorised shipments of controlled US items to the mainland".

The congressional report also noted that the US State Department's annual Hong Kong Policy Act review, published in May this year, had observed that US officials "continue to raise concerns about the diversion of controlled items, including during its annual bilateral discussion about strategic trade controls".

The Hong Kong government denied any diversion of controlled items.

"Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong is a separate customs territory and we remain committed to enforcing strategic trade controls," it said.

"Hong Kong has, and will continue to maintain, close cooperation with the United States on the matter."

Ms Felix Chung, a Hong Kong lawmaker and Liberal Party leader, said on a RTHK radio programme on Thursday that the government should send representatives to lobby the US and American companies.

Hong Kong "will be over" if the US views it just as another Chinese city, Ms Chung said.