Hong Kong

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons on 25th June 2019.

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Photo of Virendra Sharma Virendra Sharma Labour, Ealing, Southall

What representations he has made to his Chinese counterpart on the proposed Hong Kong extradition treaty and the UK’s responsibilities under the 1984 joint declaration.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We remain very concerned about the situation in Hong Kong, and I raised those concerns with the Chief Executive on 12 June. Today I urge the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government to establish a robust, independent investigation into the violent scenes that we saw. The outcome of that investigation will inform our assessment of future export licence applications to the Hong Kong police, and we will not issue any further export licences for crowd control equipment to Hong Kong unless we are satisfied that concerns raised about human rights and fundamental freedoms have been thoroughly addressed.

Photo of Virendra Sharma Virendra Sharma Labour, Ealing, Southall

I join my colleagues in congratulating the Secretary of State on the position he is in now, and wish him good luck for the future; it is a good achievement.

Will the Government fulfil our moral responsibilities and offer refuge to Hong Kong residents who are at risk from the extraterritorial application of Chinese law?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his good luck wishes and ask him not to pass that on to Labour party members in Ealing, because it might discourage their Conservative party counterparts. I also thank the shadow Foreign Secretary for her congratulations; she is a gracious person and I would expect nothing less of her.

On more serious matters, we were very concerned about this extradition law because the fundamental freedoms of Hong Kong are what has made it such a stunning success since 1997—and, indeed, before 1997. Anything that contradicted the letter or spirit of the Basic Law that preserves those freedoms should not happen.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

My right hon. Friend has spoken out very powerfully on Hong Kong at other points. Will he recognise the report on China by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and the work that we put into the Hong Kong Administration, and the fact that the UK is in many ways still underpinning the economy of Hong Kong through the application of justice and the lending of judges to guarantee the courts? At what point does the Foreign Secretary think that civil rights can be divorced from property rights, and at what point would that mean that British judges are actually whitewashing a now failing civil rights Administration?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I do not think we can divorce civil rights and political rights. My hon. Friend and his Committee are absolutely right to raise those concerns. An independent judiciary, where people can be confident of their basic freedoms, is at the heart of what has made Hong Kong such an extraordinary city. We do not just have a moral obligation to stand up for the people of Hong Kong; we actually have an internationally binding legal agreement signed with China in 1984 by Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping. We will stand by that agreement and we expect China to do the same.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

The Foreign Secretary may not know that at the time two parliamentary delegations went to Hong Kong to check how the declaration had been accepted by local people. I was on one of those delegations, led by Ian Mikardo, and we all came away absolutely convinced that one nation, two systems was a solemn, sacred obligation. Will the Foreign Secretary give a message to the Chinese Government: none of their nonsense—we know who is behind this and that they want to crush democracy in China, and that if it comes to it, we could have a system of embargoes on their goods coming to this country and to Europe?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his passionate support for the people of Hong Kong, and I want to reassure him on this. On my first visit to China as Foreign Secretary, I spoke to my counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, about the very issue of Hong Kong to underline just how important it is not just to this Government but to everyone in this House.

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Conservative, Wyre Forest

As a former investment banker specialising in the markets of Hong Kong up to and beyond the 1997 handover, I fully appreciate the incredible efforts made by Governor Chris Patten in securing the one country, two systems agreement for 50 years. Economic stability is an incredibly fragile commodity. Will my right hon. Friend reinforce and redouble his efforts to make sure that the one country, two systems arrangement does continue for the next 27 years?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Absolutely. I think that what happens in Hong Kong is, for all of us, a litmus test of the direction of travel that China goes in, because we had an internationally binding agreement signed in 1984 that Britain feels very, very strongly about. It is, as my hon. Friend rightly says, at the heart of Hong Kong’s economic success as well as its political freedom.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

Is not the real problem that although the Chief Executive may not directly take her orders from Beijing, she often looks over her shoulder to find out what the Communist party of China is saying? Is not the fundamental truth that in the end one can repress human freedom for a while but one cannot finally quash it?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The hon. Gentleman puts it beautifully; he is absolutely right. Whatever the pressure that may or may not be exerted on the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, what works in Hong Kong at the moment is that the judiciary is independent, and that must not change.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

My right hon. Friend has said that one country, two systems must mean exactly that. Will he support the legitimate demands of the protesters, many of whom are waving Union flags in the hope of support from this Government and this House for the permanent withdrawal of this most contentious Bill?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I called publicly for the Bill to be halted, and I agree with what the Hong Kong Government belatedly decided to do, which is to commit to not bringing it back until concerns about democratic rights have been addressed.