Hong Kong rejects US report saying it has entered ‘a new era of total control’ from Beijing

The Hong Kong administration "vehemently" refuted a report by a US congressional advisory panel that suggested that the city was under “a new era of control” from Beijing with a rubber-stamp legislature and diminishing freedoms.

The city's administration under chief executive John Lee in a statement on Wednesday said the report "again made slandering remarks and ill-intentioned political attacks". It asked the US to stop “maliciously interfering” in the affairs of Hong Kong.

A report released by the bipartisan US-China Economic and Security Review Commission highlighted that with Beijing's "handpicked chief executive now at the helm, China firmly controls all branches of Hong Kong’s government".

The annual report explored economic and national security implications between the US and China.

The report and its rebuke came just two days after US president Joe Biden met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in-person for the first time in over a decade and raked the Taiwan issue on the sidelines of the G20 gathering in Bali.

It accused Beijing of creating a “rubber-stamp parliament” full of “so-called patriots” by overhauling the election process. The government has also leveraged the new chief executive authority to appoint judges, the report said.

The Hong Kong government claimed the commission made "untruthful allegations", arguing that the electoral process demonstrated “broad representation, fair competition, political inclusiveness and balanced participation.”

“No one in any country or region in the world will ever allow political power to fall into the hands of forces or individuals who do not love, or even sell out or betray, their own country,” the statement read.

In a 64-page-long dedicated chapter on Hong Kong, the report criticised the newly enacted National Security Law and the vanishing freedoms of speech and religion, citing the arrest of tall religious figure cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun.

Critics have accused the government of using the law, implemented in 2020 in the wake of the pro-democracy protests, to crackdown on dissent.

The report similarly highlighted Beijing’s efforts to rewrite textbooks to shed Hong Kong’s colonial British legacy.

The government responded by saying that it was “an indisputable fact that Hong Kong has been part of China’s territory since ancient times” and the report has “distorted the truth”.

It also rejected criticism of China’s “zero-Covid” strategy, claiming the nation was among the countries with the lowest coronavirus cases and deaths.

Citing “much lower” vaccine rates in the US, the government said: “There is no place for the US to comment on the anti-epidemic policies of China, including HKSAR.”