Benedict Rogers

Britain’s failure to speak out for Hong Kong

Today in Westminster Abbey, Britain will remember the life of one of our most inspirational, colourful and remarkable political leaders: Paddy Ashdown. As we do, I know he would want us to remember our responsibilities to Hong Kong, a cause close to his heart.

Paddy lived in Hong Kong from 1967 to 1970 while in the special forces, returned in 1989 to march in protest at the Tiananmen massacre, and campaigned for the right of abode for Hong Kong holders of British National Overseas (BNO) passports, prior to the handover. When I helped found Hong Kong Watch just under two years ago, Paddy agreed to be one of our patrons, and was a steadfast ally in speaking out against the increasing erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms.

My politics are different from his, but in his steadfast commitment to freedom no one could have a truer friend. I know that Paddy, if he were still alive today, would be appalled at Britain’s failure to speak out clearly for Hong Kong in its hour of need.

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary do, of course, have certain other matters on their mind. As Hong Kong’s most serious crisis since the handover continues to escalate, Britain is facing a political and potentially constitutional crisis of its own. Nevertheless that does not absolve us of our moral and legal responsibility to Hong Kong.

Last week Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam finally announced proposals to withdraw the controversial extradition bill which sparked more than three months of protests. But Hong Kongers emphasise that this step is far too little, far too late.

The bill, if it had been implemented, would have destroyed the ‘firewall’ that had deliberately been created for the handover to separate Hong Kong’s legal system, (based on the rule of law, fair trial and an independent judiciary) from mainland China’s, which features widespread torture, disappearances, forced televised confessions, executions and a judiciary that is simply a unit of the Communist Party.

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Written by
Benedict Rogers
Benedict Rogers is chief executive of Hong Kong Watch and an advisor to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC). His new book, ‘The China Nexus: Thirty Years In and Around the Chinese Communist Party’s Tyranny’, will be published later this year.

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