My late friend Paddy Ashdown saw this coming.
When Hong Kong was handed over to China, he campaigned to give Hong Kongers the right to live in the UK should China ever renege on the promises made and enshrined in the Joint Declaration.
It’s up to us to protect the people of Hong Kong and their human rights.
Last year the National Security Law sparked major protests in Hong Kong. The protesters, fighting for their rights, were met with police violence and government crackdowns.
The people of Hong Kong are no longer protected by the ‘one country, two systems’ framework. Beijing has overstepped and encroached on the region’s freedoms. It’s up to us to protect them and their human rights.
The UK Government has recognised that this new law is a violation of the joint declaration between China and the UK. They have pledged that British National (Overseas) status holders and their dependents will be eligible to live and work in the UK for 5 years, and seek citizenship after a further year.
As Paddy showed during the Handover, liberals must fight to protect the people of Hong Kong
But that doesn’t go far enough. The BNO status scheme closed in 1997, and status cannot be inherited. That means many young Hong Kongers are being excluded from this scheme - many of them the same young protesters who have taken to the streets to fight for their rights.
This isn’t good enough. Not only have the Government excluded many Hong Kongers, but they haven’t done enough to ensure accountability when it comes to the Chinese government or Hong Kong police forces.
As Paddy showed during the Handover, liberals must fight to protect the people of Hong Kong. Policy passed at Liberal Democrat Conference calls on the UK government to uphold the promises we made to the people of Hong Kong and:
- Expand proposals so all Hong Kongers are given right of abode and a pathway to citizenship
- Develop an international ‘lifeboat’ system if the situation in Hong Kong deteriorates
- Secure a transparent, independent investigation into the protests, including into police violence
- Call for the appointment of a UN special envoy or rapporteur on Hong Kong
- Work with other countries to encourage Beijing to retract the new security law
- Enact Magnitsky legislation and hold Hong Kong and Chinese officials to account for any gross breaches of human rights
The stakes could not be higher - the UK Government must act now. It is our duty to protect and support the rights of the people of Hong Kong. We can’t set that duty aside when Hong Kong needs us most.