By Sarah Champion, Labourlist
5th September 2020 – (London) The principles of internationalism, respect for human rights and support for democracy are key pillars of the labour movement and will continue to be in the future. But the fight for these values goes beyond domestic party politics, which is why I am proud to serve as vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Hong Kong, working with MPs from other parties to support Hongkongers in their fight for freedom.
This month, the APPG launched its report into human rights abuse perpetrated by the Hong Kong police force. We revealed shocking and horrifying experiences told by Hongkongers – including descriptions of “torture”, “abuse” of medical staffers tending to injured protesters and “mass unlawful arrests”. These actions were not only authorised by Beijing, but they were also organised and encouraged by the very officials who are appointed to keep citizens safe.
Supporters of democracy have been arrested and many face life imprisonment simply for believing in a democratic future for their city. Such revelations would shock most countries into action and encourage leaders to right the wrongs that have undeniably harmed their citizens. But not Hong Kong. Instead, the authorities have attempted to muzzle those who speak out.
Campaigners allegedly connected to our APPG inquiry have been arrested, including those who alleged to support pro-democracy grassroots organisation Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong. Such brave individuals now face life imprisonment. They have been charged with several offences under the newly imposed and dictatorial national security law, including “colluding with foreign elements”, “incitement” and “conspiracy to defraud”.
This reaction is concerning. It reflects Carrie Lam’s desperation to control the fiercely brave people of Hong Kong and the threat that they have consistently posed to disrupt the increasingly draconian grip of Beijing. I would like to reassure anyone who is fearful that we do not tolerate bullies. Beijing’s heinous actions only fuel the UK parliament’s mission to support democracy in this unique city.
We have a moral duty to stand with Hong Kong, and I am determined that we will continue to do so. I would like to send a clear and unwavering message to anyone in Hong Kong who feels unsafe at this time: the UK is with you. We will never give up on Hong Kong. We will always stand with Hongkongers and the rights signed into law by the Sino-British joint declaration since 1984.
We call upon the UK government to take note of our APPG inquiry report and the shocking first-hand experiences it reveals, and to consider carefully our recommendations. These include placing Magnitsky-style sanctions onto senior Hong Kong officials that are found to have perpetrated human rights abuses against Hongkongers and ensuring that such officials do not benefit from the British national (overseas) lifeboat scheme. Hongkongers need this government to act now more than ever before.
The APPG on Hong Kong will continue to lobby the government by producing a series of reports in the coming months. These reports will shine a light on the freedoms and rights that are under threat in Hong Kong, such as academic freedom, the independence of financial institutions and press freedom. These investigations will also involve experts and first-hand experiences. They will be used to inform and lobby government to act with urgency. Hong Kong needs international support if it is to be successful in its fight for freedom. This APPG will do all that it can, and expects both the UK government and others to fight with us in the name of democracy and for the rights of Hong Kong.
Sarah Champion is the Labour MP for Rotherham and vice-chair of the APPG on Hong Kong.