The Hong Kong authorities’ egregious targeting of eight individuals living overseas is unacceptable. The UK and our allies were swift in our condemnation, and on
In the last two weeks there have been repeated examples of the Chinese Government’s attempting to intimidate those who have bravely stood up for the freedoms promised to Hong Kong. Does the Minister accept that we must urgently improve our own protections of the Hongkongers, especially given our moral and legal responsibilities, and take the leading role in international discussions on how to protect the Hongkonger community?
We absolutely support the three individuals in the UK for bravely speaking up and using their voices to challenge activities in Hong Kong. We will always champion freedom of speech, but I will not comment here on any support that may be in place, as I do not wish to compromise that in any way.
Earlier in July, the Foreign Secretary set out that any attempt by any foreign power to intimidate, harass or harm individuals or communities in the UK will not be tolerated. We have made it clear to the Chinese authorities that the existence of any undeclared sites—sometimes known as secret police stations—in the UK is unacceptable. Their operation must cease. The Chinese authorities have confirmed that they have been closed.
Many Hongkongers have sought refuge not only here in the United Kingdom but in other Commonwealth jurisdictions, principally Canada and Australia. What work is the Foreign Secretary doing with our counterparts in those countries to ensure that there is a united and concerted effort to support Hongkongers in those countries in the face of China’s repression?
We work closely with our allies and friends and we are very proud, as the UK, to have made available British national overseas visas. So far, I think, 166,000 have taken up the opportunity to be here in the UK.
The Chinese communist Government have broken British laws in their threats against people legitimately given safety in the United Kingdom. If my right hon. Friend and other Ministers have spoken to their counterparts, they will know that they have brought in sanctions against officials in Hong Kong and s freezing of assets. What have we done, and if, as I suspect, we have not done anything, why not?
As I say, the Foreign Secretary asked a senior official to call in the Chinese ambassador last week, which he did, highlighting that the issuing of arrest warrants and bounties for eight individuals living overseas was unacceptable. We obviously continue to express our ongoing opposition to the imposition of the national security law, and as my hon. Friend knows, we continue to consider the use of diplomatic tools, including sanctions where appropriate. I cannot discuss what we may do in future.
Last week’s Intelligence and Security Committee report exposed the consequences of more than a decade of Conservative division, inconsistency and complacency towards China. It looked rather like a bad Ofsted school inspection report. It described the UK’s approach to China as “completely inadequate” and it said it had left us “severely handicapped” in managing Britain’s future security. National security is the first responsibility of Government. What will the Government do, in response to this report, to rectify their past mistakes and raise their standards?
The integrated review refresh, published in March, set out very clearly the Prime Minister’s strong and robust position on China. The Foreign Secretary’s speech at Chatham House, a few weeks later, also identified that we will protect UK assets and interests, that we will engage where appropriate, that we will align with our international partners to ensure that issues we consider unacceptable to us—the coercion we are seeing from China is one—are made very clear, and that we will use the tools available to us as required.