The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven most industrialized nations expressed “grave concern” over the process by which Hong Kong selected its next Chief Executive, calling it an assault on the fundamental freedoms of the former British colony that returned to Chinese control in 1997.
The G7 statement Monday came a day after John Lee, 64, a former police official who helped incumbent Chief Executive Carrie Lam crack down on massive and sometimes-violent democracy protests in 2019, was elected to the city’s top post in a near-unanimous ballot by a Beijing-controlled committee.
“The current nomination process and resulting appointment are a stark departure from the aim of universal suffrage and further erode the ability of Hong Kongers to be legitimately represented,” the group said in an emailed statement from the foreign ministry of Germany, which holds the rotating G7 presidency. “We are deeply concerned about this steady erosion of political and civil rights and Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
Lee got all but 8 of 1,424 valid votes from a Chinese loyalist committee in the uncontested race. It was an example of Beijing’s impact on the elections overhaul. In the past, opposition candidates have received hundreds upon hundreds of votes.
The reaction of the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. follows criticism by the European Union, which said Sunday that it “regrets this violation of democratic principles and political pluralism and sees this selection process as yet another step in the dismantling of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle.”
Lee told reporters Monday that the election was conducted according to the laws of Hong Kong, which were “enacted because of what happened in the years of chaos.” Lee also helped Lam implement a powerful Beijing-drafted national security law that’s resulted in the arrest of some 182 people and the closing of at least a dozen news organizations.
“I think people are adopting a double standard,” he said, adding the “improved electoral system” has benefited the people of Hong Kong.
Zhao Lijian (Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson) accused the E.U. and other critics of the election of supporting “false democracy” and “rampant black violence” in the city. “The new Hong Kong government under the leadership of the new chief executive will lead the city from chaos to good governance,” Zhao told a regular briefing Monday in Beijing.
Lam will be replaced by Lee on July 1. Lee has pledged to increase national security and integrate with China. He said Sunday that his new job called for accountability to both Beijing and the city’s 7.4 million residents.
The G7 said authorities in China and Hong Kong have moved away from the “ultimate aim of universal suffrage” as set out in Hong Kong’s Basic Law by increasing the number of non-elected members appointed to the Election Committee and dramatically curtailing the number of voters eligible to participate in the committee elections.
This group urged China to adhere to the Sino-British Joint Declaration as well as its other legal obligations.
“We urge the new chief executive to respect protected rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, as provided for in the Basic Law, and ensure the court system upholds the rule of law,” the G7 ministers said in the statement.
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