It may be recess but diplomacy does not stop. Last week Boris Johnson welcomed one of the main Belarusian opposition leaders Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to Downing Street to show his support for the cause.
According to a No. 10 readout of the meeting, the Prime Minister claimed that the British people shared with Belarusians 'fundamental values such as a belief in democracy, human rights and rule of law' and that the UK “stands in solidarity of the people of Belarus and will continue to take action to support them.'
Johnson subsequently met this rhetoric with actions yesterday when the UK introduced trade, financial and aviation sanctions on the Lukashenko regime in response to its continued undermining of democracy and human rights violations. Inspiring stuff but it left Steerpike wondering when such resolve will be shown towards Beijing over similar actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang?
— Benedict Rogers 羅傑斯 (@benedictrogers) December 9, 2020
"Thank you" is a very inadequate word to express our gratitude to Home Secretary @pritipatel for her leadership in helping #HongKongers, @ShaunBaileyUK for support for #HongKong & my colleague @lukedepulford of @ipac for his heroic efforts to arrange thishttps://t.co/b9bUUp8EUT
Clearly, the might of the CCP dwarfs the ramshackle resources of a Soviet satellite tribute act. Yet while sanctions might be impractical, Steerpike understands that just mere expressions of solidarity have been enough to trigger a paroxysm of panic among certain mandarins in Whitehall.
Back in December, a similar meeting held with pro Hong Kong activists including Nathan Law and the Home Secretary Priti Patel prompted much consternation and fury within the Foreign Office after Patel was pictured smiling in front of the region's flag – a symbol of its resistance against the mainland. Unsurprisingly, such demonstrations of support have subsequently been few and far between from UK ministers
Let's hopes Boris Johnson's willingness to stand by pro-democracy protesters does not stop at the Russian border in future.