Hong Kong: Pro-Democracy Activists

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 10th April 2019.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

I thank the Minister for that answer. I hope that he will be as robust in his tone when speaking to the Chinese Government as he has been in his remarks to the House today.

The prosecution and now conviction of nine leaders of the Umbrella movement is the latest in a series of egregious human rights abuses by the Government in China. Using the criminal justice system and public order offences in this way is an abuse of fundamental and internationally protected human rights. Amnesty International points out that the convictions all stem solely from non-violent direct actions in largely peaceful protests. As the Minister’s noble friend Lord Patten said, it is

“appallingly divisive to use anachronistic common law charges in a vengeful pursuit of political events which took place in 2014”.

Will the Minister make the strongest possible representations to the Chinese Government that these convictions are an abuse not just of the activists’ human rights but of China’s treaty obligations? This country has both a moral and a legal responsibility to pursue this matter with all vigour. We made commitments to the people of Hong Kong at the time of the handover to China and we still have those commitments under the Sino-British joint declaration.

The one country, two systems framework promised the people of Hong Kong progress towards democracy, but these convictions are not an isolated incident. Over the past five years, we have seen the abduction of Hong Kong booksellers who published titles critical of China’s rulers; a political party banned; a senior Financial Times journalist, Victor Mallet, expelled from the city; and, now, proposals to change Hong Kong’s extradition laws to enable suspected criminals to be extradited from Hong Kong to mainland China, which is something that not only political activists but businesspeople fear, as they believe they could be in danger if the change goes ahead.

Will the Government stand by the people of Hong Kong and their human rights, and will the Minister ensure that we in this country do not allow the Chinese Government to break the promises that this country made to the people of Hong Kong?