Last month, two newly elected pro-independence lawmakers in Hong Kong, Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching, changed the language of their oaths of office. The Legislative Council barred them from assuming their seats. Hong Kong’s judiciary took up the matter to decide whether the two would be able to retake their oaths and assume their office. Before the Hong Kong court handed down a decision, China’s top legislative body issued an interpretation of the Basic Law that in practical terms said no second chance would be allowed. The matter is still with the Hong Kong judiciary.
China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997 under the “one country two systems” framework, enshrined in the Basic Law, which vests in Hong Kong executive, legislative, and independent judicial power, and also protects the rights and freedoms of the residents of Hong Kong, including freedom of speech and association.
Regarding the recent developments related to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, Deputy State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner said the United States is “disappointed;”
“The United States strongly supports and values Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and independent judiciary, two institutions that play a critically important role in promoting and protecting the special administrative region’s high degree of autonomy under the Basic Law and the ‘one country two systems’ framework that have been in place since 1997.”
“We urge the Chinese and Hong Kong special administrative region governments, and all elected politicians in Hong Kong, to refrain from any actions that fuel concerns or undermine confidence in the “one country two systems” principle,” said Mr. Toner. “Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability depends on the successful implementation as provided for by the Joint declaration and Basic Law. We believe that an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governance by the rule of law is essential for Hong Kong’s continued stability and prosperity as a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China.”