Locking down the ivory trade.
China’s top legislative body is interfering with Hong Kong’s judicial independence by intervening in a politically charged court case, Human Rights Watch said today.
On November 4, 2016, the chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), Zhang Dejiang,announced that the committee will issue an interpretation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s functional constitution. The Basic Law sets parameters for NPCSC interpretations of its provisions. This interpretation, which has not been requested by Hong Kong authorities, is expected to dictate the ruling of Hong Kong courts in an ongoing case involving two pro-independence members of the Legislative Council – possibly disqualifying them from office.
“Beijing’s intervention in this case may cause long-term damage to Hong Kong’s judicial independence,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “A highly politicized ‘interpretation’ by Chinese authorities would deepen fears that Hong Kong’s promised autonomy is under attack.”
Hong Kong’s political opposition won a majority 19 out of 35 seats in the city’s legislative election on Sunday, September 4 — a significant victory that allows them to hold onto their veto power against the pro-China establishment.
Marginalised by Hong Kong’s undemocratic political system, in which half of the 70 Legislative Council seats are elected by “functional constituencies” — business, professional, religious or specific social groups — the ability to veto proposed laws in the legislature is the last resort for the opposition to exercise their political influence.
This power has become especially important in recent years as Beijing has tried to tighten its grip on the city. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, and that status is supposed to mean a high degree of autonomy.
Following the disqualification of pro-Hong Kong independence candidates from the upcoming Legislative Council election, the Hong Kong government now wants to stop discussions on Hong Kong independence in schools.
While a majority of Hongkongers agree that independence for Hong Kong is politically impossible, more and more claim to support independence simply to agitate Beijing.
In a poll in July, about 17.4% of respondents said they were somewhat or even strongly supportive of Hong Kong independence.
As anticipated, that result has upset Beijing which has seemingly demanded the Hong Kong government stop people from talking and fantasising about separation with mainland China.
To Kwa Wan is one of Hong Kong’s poorest districts. There’s little resemblance to the shine and glamour of the central shopping district with its imported brands and boutiques. Here, the cheap plastics and household appliances crammed into little shops echo the way people squeeze into tiny, claustrophobic apartments.
It’s also a district marked for urban redevelopment. A new train line is under construction, guaranteed to push up already-staggering property prices the moment it’s opened.
On a fairly unremarkable street, in a space known enigmatically as the House of Stories, the volunteer group Fixing HK is getting ready for another night of repair and outreach.
Hong Kong officials should challenge the chairman of China’s top legislative body to make concrete commitments to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy on human rights and democratic rule, Human Rights Watch said today. Zhang Dejiang, who chairs the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, will meet with Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung and other senior officials during his visit to Hong Kong from May 17-19, 2016.
Zhang, the highest ranking central government official to visit Hong Kong since 2012, is participating in a forum on “One Belt One Road,” a Chinese government economic development initiative. While he will meet with pro-democracy legislators, there is little indication from the official schedule that he will publicly address concerns about political reform, the central government’s role in Hong Kong affairs, or meet with the media.“People in Hong Kong have urgent questions about mainland police operations in the territory, prospects for universal suffrage, and whether Beijing will allow the Hong Kong government to represent their interests,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s crucial that Hong Kong leaders disregard Beijing’s script and demand real answers from visiting mainland officials such as Zhang.”
Hong Kong authorities have sharply limited the opportunities for people to express criticism of Zhang’s visit, Human Rights Watch said. Protesters are limited to designated areas a considerable distance away from meeting locations. Police are also being deployed atop Lion Rock, a mountain where previously, a large banner proclaiming “I want Universal Suffrage” had been hung, presumably to prevent similar banners from being hoisted during Zhang’s visit. On May 17, seven members of the League of Social Democrats, a pro-democracy political party, were arrested for trying to hang on a bridge large banners emblazoned with slogans demanding universal suffrage.