Democracy in Hong Kong

Part of Rail Services (Bedfordshire) – in Westminster Hall at 5:32 pm on 23rd January 2018.

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Photo of Colin Clark Colin Clark Conservative, Gordon 5:32 pm, 23rd January 2018

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. Scotland has had strong links with Hong Kong historically and commercially, in politics, science and modern trade. There can be no doubt that over the last 20 years Hong Kong has thrived as a result of its proximity to China, while enjoying access to financial markets around the world.

Scottish universities, including Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities, have very strong links to Hong Kong, and they share our concerns. Last year was a special year for the special administrative region, and much was made in Hong Kong and China of the significance of the 20th anniversary of the handover from the British. As Sammy Wilson said, at the time, Britain left in a clear agreement that Hong Kong’s special status under the “one country, two systems” understanding would be protected, along with a commitment to the rule of law and Hong Kong’s autonomy, as my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce eloquently explained.

However, in recent years we have seen worrying signs that the commitment is wavering. It does not benefit China and the ruling Communist party to flex their muscles when it comes to Hong Kong. The economic importance of Hong Kong to China should very much temper their response. But all this shows a worrying disregard for the joint declaration. The United Kingdom has a clear right to monitor and comment on the declaration, given that that was one of the major preconditions for the handover of Hong Kong. The commitment to the rule of law and autonomy were agreed for a period of at least 50 years. It is worrying that, only halfway through, we are deeply concerned that those principles appear to be at risk.

I hope that the Government will recognise the concerns expressed in the Chamber today and speak out where necessary. China is a friend to the United Kingdom and a country with which we enjoy a prosperous and beneficial relationship, but friends must be able to be honest with one another and have difficult conversations on issues on which we disagree. Like the right hon. Member for East Antrim, I recognise the economic success of Hong Kong and want to see it flourish. The last 20 years have defined the Hong Kong of today. If it is to continue to flourish for the next 20 years, its democracy, autonomy and rule of law must not only be protected, but enhanced so that they are worthy of any great international city, which Hong Kong most certainly is.