Democracy in Hong Kong

Part of Rail Services (Bedfordshire) – in Westminster Hall at 5:44 pm on 23rd January 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 5:44 pm, 23rd January 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Streeter.

As hon. Members have said, one of the privileges of serving in our free Parliament is the ability, and the possibility, to defend the freedoms of those in other countries where things are more difficult. Last year was the 20th anniversary of the joint declaration, and I would just like to remind the Chamber of one of the key paragraphs in it, which says:

“Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief will be ensured by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”

Those are fundamental rights, and Her Majesty’s Opposition totally support the principle of one country, two systems and we totally accept our legal responsibilities as a guarantor of that declaration and of those rights.

I want to pay special tribute to Fiona Bruce for the way that she introduced this debate. Her speech was excellent and set out the whole picture very clearly. I have to say that she is fearless in defending those whose human rights are abused, however inconvenient it is and wherever we see it. I also congratulate my hon. Friend Catherine West on her considerable work on Hong Kong in recent years.

The situation is obviously getting more difficult, as the Government report acknowledges, and we have to ask what is to be done in this situation. We should remind China of a couple of things. One is that while we agree that calls for independence are not ones that we support, clamping down on protests and on free speech, and appearing not to wish to see civil society flourish, can only increase those pressures. That will not reduce those protests. As Lord Ashdown said, will the Chinese enhance their own soft power if they undermine Hong Kong’s freedoms? That is a very powerful point.

I am interested to know what the Government are going to do and what they are going to say to the Chinese. I think that the Prime Minister will have a meeting with President Xi in the next few months. Is the intention to raise these issues? The Government have been objective and open in assessing the situation, but what further do they think that they can do? I would also like the Government to assure us that in the post-Brexit pressure for trade regimes, we will not abandon our commitments and responsibilities to human rights. Taking on board what Peter Grant said about humility, and notwithstanding what happened when we were running Hong Kong, what steps do the Government think it is possible to make to move to universal suffrage, and what is their view on the legality of the immigration checkpoint on the new railway?

The title of the debate is “Democracy in Hong Kong”. Most of the focus has been on individual human rights, and at this juncture I think that is the right focus.