Britain’s enduring duty to Hong Kong endures – here’s how the UK must respond, Tom Tugendhat said
Tom Tugendhat is Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said that Hong Kong has changed since handover. He is worried that China’s actions in proposing a new Security Law on the territory undermines the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which was so carefully woven to protect the economic power of the jurisdiction and the rights of the people. That raises important questions for the UK, he said.
Tugendhat argued that Through the Joint Declaration, has protected the city’s unique status and defended some of its institutions including the court, the Legislative Council and the trade agreements, but it has left the people of Hong Kong exposed.
“From six-month reports to holding the Chinese Communist Party to their promise of One Country, Two Systems, we have sometimes remained conveniently silent when other interests seemed to count more,” he wrote in an article on local media. “Now, after decades of turning a blind eye, Beijing has forced us to see the effect of the incremental erosion of rights in Hong Kong.”
He firmly opposed the national security reform, saying that such measures “are often used in mainland China to detain dissidents and other political opponents”.
“It now seems that the era of Hong Kong’s political freedom is over, and that many could become criminals for actions that were legal until now,” he added.
While he recognised that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is becoming clearer in raising concerns about the actions of Beijing, he argued that the UK government could and should do more.
According to the MP, the UK could take actions including raising awareness on the situation and offering sanctuary to “those who need it – or soon will – there is an important role for us to coordinate.”
He called for a rethinking in the UK relations with China, saying that in building the British partnership, the UK has “turned a blind eye to intellectual property theft, spying, and even censorship in our own universities. Now Beijing’s actions are calling into question Britain’s word as an international partner.” He added, “We must act”.
He concluded proposing that the UK should establish partnerships that can defend the rule of law worldwide.