It would be an insult to brave Hongkongers for Britain to ignore their plight
Hong Kong is now fully in the clutches of the Chinese Communist Party’s totalitarian rule, writes Tom Randall MP. | PA Images
The freedom to disagree with and question authority is a cornerstone of democracy. In removing it, Beijing has eradicated any last trace of Hong Kong’s independence.
It’s been almost 18 months since widespread protests swept the city of Hong Kong. What started as a backlash against plans to change extradition laws, which many saw as a steppingstone to allowing extradition to China, has snowballed into a battle for the city’s soul.
On the one side, there are many thousands of Hongkongers who want nothing more than the freedoms and rights promised to them under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. On the other, Xi Jinping’s Communist Party and the Hong Kong establishment which it props up.
The situation in Hong Kong is only getting worse. Last week, four lawmakers were ousted from Hong Kong’s legislative council by China for the crime of being “unpatriotic” - a development which shocked the world and caused international outcry.
If there was any remaining doubt about the severity of the issue, that has surely been put to rest by the Hong Kong Bar Association describing the huge constitutional change as violating the “basic principles of fairness and due process”, adding that “Legal certainty has been greatly impaired.”
As a democratically elected representative and a former lawyer, the unlawful removal of opposition politicians dismays and disturbs me. The freedom to disagree with and question authority is a cornerstone of democracy. In removing it, Beijing has eradicated any last trace of Hong Kong’s independence. The so-called semi-autonomous region is no more. This is just one of the reasons why I have felt compelled to join the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hong Kong.
However, it’s not the only reason. The last year of protests has seen egregious human rights abuses take place in Hong Kong. As was reported to the APPG I am joining, a violent police force has enacted brutal crimes against the citizens it is supposed to protect. Officers have infiltrated hospitals intimidating doctors and insisting patient’s injuries be recorded as accidental. They’ve targeted protesters, harassing them with nonsense charges. In one particularly harrowing incident, a 12-year old girl was thrown to the ground and forcibly restrained.
It is only by creating a coordinated, international effort that we will be able to bring Hong Kong the justice it deserves
In June, new National Security Laws were passed. Orwellian legislation that made any act, by any individual, anywhere in the world, which could be construed as disagreeing with the Hong Kong government, illegal. As an MP who has spoken out against this law, I feel I might risk arrest were I ever to set foot in Hong Kong.
School curricula and the press have been censored, a new phone line was introduced encouraging citizens to spy on their neighbours. 12 Hongkongers have been arrested by Chinese officials and held in Shenzhen without access to their families, medical care or proper legal representation.
In little more than a year, Hong Kong has broken down from being a global financial centre and beacon of freedom. It is now fully in the clutches of the Chinese Communist Party’s totalitarian rule.
The Chinese Ambassador to the UK has repeatedly demanded that British parliamentarians keep out of Hong Kong’s business. Stating that what happens in the region is China’s private internal affairs. I strongly disagree.
It is now painfully clear that China has broken its obligations under the UN recognised Sino-British Joint Declaration. It would be an insult to the brave Hongkongers still fighting for their freedom to ignore their plight. Any of us who claim to value democracy, freedom or the rule of law must stand together and show them our support.
I’m proud to be a member of this APPG and to be working with colleagues to take forward the group’s objectives of supporting Hongkongers in their fight for freedom and drawing the world’s attention to their plight.
In particular, it is crucial that the UK and other nations impose sanctions on key Hong Kong officials complicit in human rights abuses. It is only by creating a coordinated, international effort that we will be able to bring Hong Kong the justice it deserves.
Tom Randall is the Conservative MP for Gedling.