EYEAFRICA TV: Brussels, Belgium: European Union high representative on Hong Kong Thursday said the escalation of violence and continuing unrest in the Asian nation, including the use of live ammunition, resulting in critical injuries to at least one person, is deeply troubling, asking authorities to always uphold fundamental freedoms of the protesters.
He said the European Union maintains its position that restraint, de-escalation and dialogue are the only way forward which are clearly needed now more than ever and offer the only basis for an enduring solution.
The 2019 Hong Kong protests, also known as the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill (ELAB) Movement, are an ongoing series of demonstrations in the country which began with the aim to oppose the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill proposed by the Hong Kong government. If enacted, the bill will allow local authorities to detain and extradite criminal fugitives who are wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China.
The EU representative said fundamental freedoms, including the right of assembly of Hong Kongers must continue to be upheld and the possibility to hold peaceful demonstrations must be ensured. “These rights must be exercised peacefully. Any violence is unacceptable and any action by the law enforcement authorities must remain strictly proportionate.”
He said there is a clear need for efforts to rebuild trust between the government and the population. The dialogue process recently initiated by the authorities is a welcome first step in this regard.
People were concerned that the bill would subject Hong Kong residents and visitors to the mainland Chinese jurisdiction, undermining the autonomy of the region and its civil liberties. As the protests progressed, the protesters laid out five key demands, which include investigation into the alleged police misconduct and resumption of democratic reforms which have stagnated since the 2014 Umbrella Revolution. The Chinese central government has described the protests as “the worst crisis in Hong Kong” since the handover in 1997.
The high representative said the European Union recalls its close relations with Hong Kong under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and its strong stake in its continued stability and prosperity. The EU attaches great importance to Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, which must be preserved in line with the Basic Law and international commitments. Continued respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, and the independence of the judiciary, remain essential for the development of Hong Kong.