‘Patriots’ law is a fatal blow to democracy in Hong Kong. The UK government has a moral duty to take action
To check the worst impulses of the CCP and revive Hong Kong’s tradition of democracy and respect for human rights, the UK government must impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on Hong Kong officials complicit in human rights abuses.
Last week, Beijing’s puppet parliament in Hong Kong rubber stamped the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dictated ‘patriots’ only law, legalising the authoritarian take-over of the last bastion of freedom in communist China.
The electoral reform, imposed under the farcical pretext of stability following widespread and largely peaceful opposition to the steady erosion of democracy in Hong Kong, seeks to remake the territory in the brutal image of its political masters.
The Bill will drastically reduce democratic representation in the city’s parliament, the Legislative Council (LegCo) - slashing the percentage of directly elected seats in the legislature to 22% - down from 50%. Other menacing changes include the installation of a new vetting committee to screen election candidates, with the purpose of stamping out any last remaining “unpatriotic” voices.
This comes not long after the CCP imposed the sweeping new national security law on Hong Kong last year, criminalising free speech and the right to assembly after months of popular protest against plans to introduce extradition to mainland China.
The Extradition Bill, dropped under the weight of mass demonstrations at the time, risked exposing Hongkongers to China’s systemic malpractice of unfair trials, torture and abuse in detention - yet has returned in more sinister fashion through the latest security law.
Thousands of young people do not qualify for the BN(O) scheme under present arrangements
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab criticised the initial passage of the ‘patriots’ bill in mainland China earlier this year, but following this latest and potentially fatal blow to democracy in Hong Kong, the UK government has a moral and historical obligation - as custodians of the Sino-British Joint Declaration - to take decisive action.
To check the worst impulses of the CCP, turn the tide on this latest wave of oppression and revive Hong Kong’s tradition of democracy and respect for human rights, the UK government must impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on Hong Kong officials complicit in human rights abuses.
As officers of the Hong Kong APPG, we welcomed the news last week that there have been 34,300 applications for the British National (Overseas) visa scheme for Hongkongers seeking refuge in the UK since the route was launched at the end of January.
These latest migration figures demonstrate that the BN(O) scheme has been a lifeline for fearful citizens - but they also underscore the importance of expanding the entry visa to safeguard more of the city’s defenders.
Thousands of young people - many of whom made up much of the protest movement and are therefore at most risk of the CCP’s punitive retribution - do not qualify for the scheme under present arrangements.
As members of this cross-party group, we call on the UK government to not abandon the youngest and most vulnerable of Hongkongers, and urgently include provisions to the scheme for the 187,000 non-dependent, 18-24-year-old non-BN(O)s who are unable to apply without their families.
Siobhain McDonagh is the Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden and vice-chair of the APPG on Hong Kong.