Hong Kong, ‘Asia’s World City’, is becoming a place where legislators fear that they could face years in prison for talking to politicians from other countries, including British MPs.
So many of us have fond memories of Hong Kong. Dynamic and vibrant, the city is a melting pot of different cultures, which represents the meeting point of East and West. Yet in recent days, the mood in Hong Kong has soured. Moral, courageous people now face the choice of standing up and risking arrest; or staying quiet and giving up on their way of life as they know it. For many Hong Kongers who are descendants of refugees from the worst of Mao’s purges, this looks like a devastating repetition of history
Britain is a co-signatory to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a treaty lodged at the UN which guarantees Hong Kong's freedoms and way of life for fifty years. China's determination to undermine this declaration by bringing in new national security legislation is a slap in the face for Britain. Boris Johnson must speak out. But where is he?
The Chinese Communist party have sought to re-write history and claim that the treaty no longer applies. The decision today by China's National People's Congress to rubber stamp the drafting of national security legislation means that, bar a miracle, there is now no going back. The legislation will introduce charges such as subversion, secession and collusion with foreign political powers into Hong Kong law, potentially banning most forms of political dissent. To make matters worse, mainland security agents will be charged with enforcing the law. As Chris Patten has said, they won't be there to 'eat dim sum'.
The United States have at least recognised the severity of the situation. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has officially stated that Hong Kong is ‘no longer autonomous’ from mainland China. The US treats Hong Kong differently to the rest of China as a result of piece of legislation called the US-Hong Kong Policy Act. The decision to mark Hong Kong as ‘not autonomous’ therefore jeopardises its special customs treatment and potentially its status as an international financial centre.
As someone who loves Hong Kong, this is tragic news. But I also recognise that it reflects the reality that the new National Security law will shatter Hong Kong’s autonomy. There is still a chance for Beijing to remove the bill and reset its course. But if there is no U-turn, it essentially signals the end of Hong Kong as we know it.
This must be a wake-up call for the British government. This story is rapidly becoming bigger than track-and-trace, or even the fate of Dominic Cummings. This is not only about the fate of Hong Kong; the wider geopolitical map is at stake. We need bold leadership now from the British government.
The Chinese government have blatantly violated the handover treaty. Boris Johnson should coordinate an international contact group made up of like-minded countries, ensure that this at the top of the agenda for the G7, and work together with other world leaders immediately develop a life-boat policy for British National (Overseas) passport holders and other Hong Kongers in need of a lifeline. Britain owes the people of Hong Kong nothing less.