Govt strongly opposes US remarks

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today said it strongly objects to the remarks made by the US, which completely ignored and distorted the facts, against the situation in Hong Kong at the meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on April 28, and urges the US to stop abusing the forum to attack Hong Kong.   The Hong Kong SAR Government explained that after the WTO Panel established under the DSB clearly ruled on December 21, 2022 that the origin marking requirement imposed by the US on products from Hong Kong is discriminatory and inconsistent with WTO rules, it encouraged the US to bring the measure into conformity.   By repeatedly making distorted and self-serving political assertions at DSB meetings in connection with the panel ruling, the US is undermining the integrity of the rules-based multilateral trading system embodied by the WTO, it pointed out.   The origin marking requirement imposed by the US requires all products exported from Hong Kong to the US may no longer be marked as originating in “Hong Kong” but must be marked to indicate “China”.   Hong Kong, China has called upon the US to respect the ruling and immediately withdraw its erroneous origin marking requirement. Yet the US has decided to appeal on the panel's report to the Appellate Body (AB), an appeal mechanism that it has crippled since end-2019 by continuously blocking the appointments of members to the body, disrupting all WTO members from having their cases heard and adjudicated under the well-established mechanism.   The Hong Kong SAR Government stressed that this is a hypocritical and arrogant act. The AB is still non-functional to date. Instead of unblocking appointments to the AB, the US' attempt to keep bringing up the case to the DSB and criticising the specific panel rulings show no respect to the Panel, the panellists and WTO rules.   While WTO members are entitled to respond before a panel and lodge appeals, there is an intelligible difference between lodging genuine appeals against substantive rulings and furthering ulterior, political motives in the guise of resolving a trade dispute.   As to the US' smearing of the current state of affairs in Hong Kong at the meeting, the Hong Kong SAR Government strongly refutes the absurd and unfounded remarks levelled against the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL).   It stated that Hong Kong is a society underpinned by the rule of law and has always adhered to the principle that laws must be obeyed and lawbreakers be held accountable, and this is well recognised by the international community.   The Hong Kong SAR Government also emphasised that the Department of Justice (DoJ), by virtue of Article 63 of the Basic Law, controls criminal prosecutions, free from any interference.   Independent prosecutorial decisions for each case are made in a rigorous and objective manner, strictly based on evidence and applicable laws and are in accordance with the Prosecution Code. Prosecutions would be instituted by the DoJ only if there is sufficient admissible evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction, and if it is in the public interest to do so.   Moreover, it indicated that as guaranteed under the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, defendants charged with criminal offences shall have the right to a fair trial by an independent judiciary. Article 85 of the Basic Law clearly stipulates that the courts of the Hong Kong SAR shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference.   All law enforcement actions taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies are based on evidence and strictly in accordance with the law in respect of the acts of the persons or entities concerned, and have nothing to do with their political stance, background or occupation.   Furthermore, in all criminal trials, the prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt before the defendant can be convicted, and the defendant has the right to appeal under the law.   The Hong Kong SAR Government said it steadfastly safeguards national sovereignty, security and development interests, and upholds the authority of the NSL.   It added that in accordance with the law, it remains committed to governing Hong Kong, carrying out its duties and obligations to safeguard national security resolutely and protecting the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong people under the law, so as to ensure the steadfast and successful implementation of “one country, two systems”.

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