G-7, EU Express ‘Grave Concern’ Over Dwindling Democracy in Hong Kong Election

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
journalist
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
December 21, 2021 Updated: December 21, 2021

The Group of Seven (G-7) and the European Union (EU) have expressed “grave concern over the erosion” of democracy in Hong Kong’s electoral system, following local Legislative Council elections on Dec. 19 that saw pro-Beijing candidates sweep to victory.

“We strongly reiterate our call on China to act in accordance with the Sino–British Joint Declaration and its other legal obligations and respect fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, as provided for in the Basic Law,” the G-7 foreign ministers and the EU high representative said in a joint statement on Dec. 20.

Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States are G-7 members.

“We also call on China and the Hong Kong authorities to restore confidence in Hong Kong’s political institutions and end the unwarranted oppression of those who promote democratic values and the defense of rights and freedoms,” they said.

Hours before the G-7 and EU statement, the “Five Eyes” alliance—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the United States—issued a joint statement expressing similar concerns, as well as the “wider chilling effect” of Hong Kong’s national security law.

The legislative elections on Dec. 19 saw a record-low voter turnout—only 30.2 percent among Hong Kong’s 4.4 million eligible voters took part. More than 50 percent participated in the two previous elections in 2012 and 2016.

Candidates from the pro-establishment camp, also known as the pro-Beijing camp, secured 89 of the 90 available seats.

The Dec. 19 elections were the first since Beijing overhauled the city’s electoral process, creating a new review mechanism to vet candidates so that only “patriots” loyal to the Chinese regime could run for office. The change also expanded the 70-seat Legislative Council (LegCo) to 90 seats, even as the number of seats directly elected by Hong Kong citizens was reduced from 35 to 20.

It was also the first LegCo elections since Beijing implemented a national security law last summer, following months of anti-Chinese Communist Party (CCP), pro-democracy protests in the former British colony.

The national security law, which punishes vaguely defined crimes such as subversion, has been used by the Hong Kong authorities to stifle dissent. In February, 47 opposition figures were charged under the law for taking part in a primary vote to select pro-democracy candidates for the Dec. 19 election. More than 600,000 Hongkongers participated in the primary.

The elections were originally scheduled for Sept. 6, 2020, but were postponed by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, who at the time cited the local surge in COVID-19 infections.

In a separate statement, Josep Borrell, vice president of the European Commission and high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, expressed his concern.

“The European Union sees this election, in combination with the ongoing pressure on civil society, as yet another step in the dismantling of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle,” Borrell said. “The EU will continue to follow developments closely, including the election of the Chief Executive scheduled for March 2022.”

In response to international criticism over the Hong Kong elections, Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, accused Western countries of “gross interference of China’s internal affairs,” during a daily briefing on Dec. 21.

The Hong Kong government accused the Five Eyes nations of attempting to “smear” the LegCo elections, and defended the national security law as bringing “stability” to the city, according to a statement.

Meanwhile, Samuel Chu, president and founder of U.S.-based advocacy group Campaign for Hong Kong, applauded Hongkongers for not participating in the “sham” Dec. 19 LegCo elections.

“Hong Kongers clearly did not buy the sham ‘patriots-only’ election on Sunday—with an overwhelming majority of them sitting out and boycotting the rigged LegCo elections that were nothing more than a performative selection ritual fully controlled by Beijing,” Chu said in a statement.

“No sensible and true Hong Konger, regardless of their political beliefs, could honestly claim that Hong Kong operates with any autonomy from the CCP.”

Frank Fang
journalist
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.