BRUSSELS - The European Commission and the High Representative have today adopted the 26th annual report to the European Parliament and the Council on political and economic developments in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. This report covers developments in 2023.

The electoral overhaul of the District Councils, adopted on 6 July, drastically reduced the number of directly elected members to less than one-fifth. Under the amended law, candidates need to pass through an extensive vetting process. Ultimately, no pro-democracy candidate qualified. Opposition parties were unable to organise fundraising events. The District Council election took place on 10 December and saw a historically low turnout rate.

For the first time, the National Security Law was applied extra-territorially. Hong Kong authorities issued a wanted list targeting Hong Kong activists residing overseas and placed bounties on 13 self-exiled activists over alleged collusion with foreign countries or external elements.

Trials brought against pro-democracy activists, advocates and politicians under the National Security Law and related legislation continued. Hearings in the cases of the 47 pro-democracy activists who had participated in a primary election in 2021 started in February and closed in early December. The Stand News trial with charges under the colonial era sedition law against two former chief editors of the disbanded independent media outlet was interrupted in November and postponed to spring 2024. The national security trial against media entrepreneur and pro-democracy advocate Jimmy Lai started on 18 December. The hearing schedule for the trial against the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, including activist Chow Hang-tung, had not been announced by the end of 2023.

In contrast, 2023 saw hopeful signs of progress on the rights of LGBTI+ people in Hong Kong, mainly carried forward by the judiciary.

The annual report highlights the substantial commercial links between the European Union and Hong Kong. With 1,550 companies, the EU remained the largest foreign business community. The EU was Hong Kong's third largest trading partner, after mainland China and Taiwan.