Tuesday, 15 December 2020
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
296. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Irish citizens or businesses based in Hong Kong have been affected by the rise in the freezing of bank accounts of those linked to pro-democracy protests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43246/20]
297. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the response of his Department to the recent rise in pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43247/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.
The Government is closely monitoring the situation in Hong Kong, following the adoption of the National Security Law on 30 June by the Chinese National People's Congress. I made a statement on 1 July to express Ireland's concern in relation to the adoption of this law, and the situation has been raised directly with the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland.
The EU has made a number of statements in relation to this situation, most recently on 12 November following the disqualification of members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council. This statement reiterated our concern regarding Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy under the One Country, Two Systems principle, and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.
In addition to this, the Council of the EU adopted Conclusions on Hong Kong on 28 July 2020 in response to the adoption of the National Security Law. These set out a coordinated package of response measures in various fields, including the operation of Member States' extradition agreements and other relevant agreements with Hong Kong.
In line with these Conclusions, the Government agreed on 13 October to suspend Ireland's Extradition Agreement with Hong Kong.
This decision, which was taken in concert with a number of other EU Member States, clearly signals Ireland's concerns in relation to the rule of law in Hong Kong and the erosion of judicial independence promised under the One Country, Two Systems principle.
The matter was discussed last week at the EU Foreign Affairs Council where Ministers agreed on their assessment of the situation, which has been strongly deteriorating, and as a minimum will continue to implement the Council Conclusions from July 2020, expressing political support for Hong Kong's autonomy under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle.
Hong Kong maintains a legislative approach to its financial system aimed at combating money laundering. As far as my Department is aware, no Irish citizens or businesses have been affected by the freezing of bank accounts related to pro-democracy protests. My Department, through our Consulate General in Hong Kong and our Embassy in Beijing, will remain alert to the situation in Hong Kong and, along with our EU partners, will continue to raise our concerns with Chinese authorities.