The “2023 Hong Kong Policy Act Report” released Friday, March 31 by the U.S. Department of State highlighted Communist China’s increasing authoritarian control over the port city of Hong Kong, especially under the National Security Law (NSL) implemented starting June 2020.
According to the report, “the central government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) took new actions” that went against the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which promised a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework for Hong Kong following the city’s return to China from UK colonial rule.
“PRC authorities continued to deny people in Hong Kong the ability to play a meaningful role in the city’s governance, including for the first time permitting only one candidate to run for Hong Kong Chief Executive,” the report stated, in addition to slamming the NSL “as a broad and vague basis to undermine the rule of law and protected rights and freedoms.”
“Hong Kong authorities continued to arrest and prosecute people for peaceful political expression critical of the local and central governments, including for posting and forwarding social media posts,” the report continued.
It notes the arrests of Catholic cardinal Jospeh Zen and former independent media mogul Jimmy Lai, who are prominent critics of the CCP.
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The State Department described the actions taken by the CCP as “directly threatening U.S. interests in Hong Kong,” but did observe that some notable differences between Hong Kong and mainland China still remain.
For example, despite the threat of legal action for political dissent, free internet access is still largely permitted in Hong Kong, unlike on the mainland which is behind the “Great Firewall” of Party censorship.
Starting in 2020, the U.S. government — under the Trump administration at the time — mandated annual reports on the status of Hong Kong’s autonomy in the face of tightening CCP control over the city.
The reasoning for that decision was that Hong Kong enjoys special financial and trade privileges under U.S law because of “one country, two systems” making it different from the communist mainland, but Washington would have to monitor Beijing’s actions to determine whether Hong Kong is still sufficiently distinct to warrant those privileges.