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HKSAR Government strongly objects to remarks by US at WTO Dispute Settlement Body meeting
     The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government today (April 29, Hong Kong time) strongly objects to the remarks made by the United States (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 (Geneva time), and urges the US to stop abusing the forum to attack Hong Kong.

     A spokesman for the HKSAR Government said, "The WTO Panel established under the DSB has 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, and has recommended 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.

     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 withdraw immediately 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.

     "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 panelists and WTO rules", the spokesman added.

     "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 HKSAR Government strongly refutes the absurd and unfounded remarks levelled against the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL) by the US. 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 international community.

     "The Department of Justice (DoJ) of the HKSAR, 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.

     "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 HKSAR 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. 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 HKSAR Government steadfastly safeguards national sovereignty, security and development interests, and upholds the authority of the NSL. It remains committed to governing Hong Kong in accordance with the law, resolutely carries out its duties and obligations to safeguard national security in accordance with the law and at the same time protects 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'", the spokesman stressed.
Ends/Saturday, April 29, 2023
Issued at HKT 12:55
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