EU must support democracy in Hong Kong

Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, has led a key report on Hong Kong twenty years after the UK’s handover to China, which was adopted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg today with an overwhelming majority of 490 out of 589.

 

Alyn, who returned to Hong Kong last month, drafted a recommendation to the EU Council that would see the European Parliament recognise the strong link between democracy in China and the preservation of fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. Those have been degrading over the past few years, putting into question the one country two system principle upon which Hong Kong is based. 

Presenting his report on Tuesday evening, Alyn said:

 "President, thank you.

I’m very pleased to introduce this report – briefly, you’ll be glad to hear at this time of night – to the House.

I believe it is an example of the EU adding real value, and I believe it’s an example of the Parliament working well.

The EU external competencies are still new and at its best we can use the footprint and the historical connections of our member states to use that insight to inform a values-based foreign policy in the wider world.

We can use that insight to inform ourselves but not be a prisoner of the baggage of history.

And on that point, and on a slightly personal note, it’s a great tragedy for me that, as the EU begins to speak with one voice in the wider world, my own member state, the United Kingdom, has decided to retreat into isolationism with Brexit. In my country, Scotland, I reassure you that there are plenty of constructive partners in Scotland, and we’ll be in touch.

On this report, it’s right that we take stock of the situation in Hong Kong. We are 20 years after the handover from the British to the Chinese, 20 years into a 50-year commitment to a ‘one country, two systems’ approach.

Hong Kong is the 14th biggest trading partner of the European Union, it’s an important partner to us, and an important part of the EU-China dialogue. It’s important to be frank. Hong Kong is a great place, but all is not perfect.

There remains concern that the ‘one country, two systems’ is being undermined. In Paragraphs B and L, we voice that concern. Not criticism, but concern, and I believe we’ve struck a balance.

Freedom of speech also must be defended, now and in the future. In Paragraph P, I believe we’ve struck a balanced statement which takes due stock of where things are.

In Paragraph T we set out ways in which we could support and strengthen civil society within Hong Kong – a crucial set of groups that are doing increasingly difficult work. They look to us for support.

I’m very pleased that we’ve reached such a high degree of consensus across the House; only two amendments of substance from the GUE group in favour of a greater partnership on tax work, tax avoidance, money laundering and financial transparency. For my part, I strongly support the amendments. I urge colleagues to support them too; I think that is a key area where we could assist in the fight against organised crime and money laundering.

With that, I would most warmly thank the Shadow Rapporteurs, our most excellent Secretariat, the Greens/EFA group staff, and I commend the text very warmly to the House. Thank you."

Alyn Smith is in charge of the European Parliament’s resolution on "Hong Kong: Twenty Years After Handover". The report as adopted on December 13 is available on the European Parliament's website here.

You can watch Alyn's speech :

Alyn got the recommendation adopted in the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on November 21, with a clear majority in favour, you can read about it on the European Parliament's website here.