Tag Archives: hong kong

Tom Arms’ World Review

United States

The Ukraine aid bill is starting to inch its way through the American House of Representatives. Up until this week the $60 billion much-needed package has been blocked by Speaker Mike Johnson’s refusal to allow Congress a vote on the issue.

He also tied the aid bill (which also includes money for Israel and Taiwan) to tougher laws on immigration.

This has clearly been done in collusion with Donald Trump who opposes aid to Ukraine and wants to delay any agreement on immigration so that he can make it his key election issue.

Senate Republicans have already passed the Ukraine aid bill and have been piling the pressure on Speaker Johnson to allow a vote. This week he agreed. But with several huge caveats. For a start, aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan will be voted on separately. Next, he wants to change the wording of the legislation from “aid” to “loan” or possibly “lend-lease.”

Johnson also wants to explore the possibility of applying the profits from $300 billion of frozen Russian assets to the aid that Ukraine needs. This would involve something called the REPO Act or, The Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity for Ukraine Act which authorizes the President to seize Russian assets.

The problem with the REPO Act is that it specifies that the seized assets should be used for reconstruction. Ukraine needs money to fight. Reconstruction comes after the fighting.

There are other problems with Johnson’s apparent change of heart. To start with, separating out the different clauses and turning aid into a loan will seriously delay the bill. Next, because it is substantially changed the bill will have to go back to the Senate and, finally, both houses of Congress are about to start their 22-day Easter recess.

Mike Johnson’s change of heart may actually be a change of delaying tactics.

European Union

Meanwhile the Europeans are trying to fill the gap and smooth over their differences over Ukraine. The last few weeks have seen French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olof Scholz sniping at each other over who is more generous to the brave Ukrainians.

Macron talked about the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine and urged Scholz to provide Volodomyr Zelensky with long-range Taurus missiles. The more cautious Scholz delivered a firm “nein” to sending troops and ruled out the despatch of Taurus because German soldiers would be needed to operate the system. Scholz also pointed out that Germany was providing a lot more money than France and that if the French leader wanted to help Ukraine he should put his money where his mouth is.

Enter Donald Tusk, former European Commission president and current prime minister of Poland. He called a meeting of the leaders of the EU’s two biggest countries to smooth out difficulties that were threatening to derail EU support for Ukraine.

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What I’ve learned from my first conference

The last day of our LibDem conference on Tuesday 26th September, at the beautiful coastal town of Bournemouth, also marked the 1000th day in prison of the Hong Kong industrialist-turned-fast fashion-entrepreneur-turned-media tycoon Jimmy Lai. I still recalled the disappointment that China-UK relations wasn’t selected as the emergency motion on that exact day as that would be the perfect timing to submit my very first speaker card.

Jimmy Lai was almost the only billionaire in Hong Kong who dared to support the pro-democratic protest openly in 2019, He was also the owner/founder of the most influential newspaper ‘Apple Daily’ with the biggest circulation in Hong Kong at the time, whose editorial stance is, of course, pro-democracy and such ‘original sin’ of his won’t be forgiven by CCP.

He was a genius entrepreneur with a string of successful businesses. For example, before the word ‘fast fashion’ was invented in the Western World, his fast fashion label ‘Giordano’ was established in the 80s. It was so successful that even the founder of Uniqlo, Tadashi Yanai, now the richest man in Japan and the same age as Jimmy, went to meet Jimmy in Hong Kong to get inspired about the tricks of operation and the supply chain. At the time Uniqlo was still an unknown small business founded in Hiroshima that was in a bottleneck to break through. Despite the fact that Jimmy is a British citizen, we hardly ever hear any Tory officials (e.g. Cleverly) or media talking about it.

During the conference, I was so moved by the story of Lynne Featherstone on same sex marriage and I had no idea she is the hero who started it. However, an analogy on this would be Paddy Ashdown – our legendary LibDem leader who was actually the person who initiated the settlement rights of British National (Overseas) residents in Hong Kong.  However, HK BNO immigrants have no idea about this and they are mostly Tories by default (i.e. I am an outcast), rather like Cuban Americans. After this conference I feel I’m more prepared to approach my communities with the right message, especially with these ‘unsung’ heroes & ‘unheard’ stories for the general public.

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Emily’s story – why Lib Dems must protect the human rights of Hong Kongers

I could only have ever joined the Liberal Democrats when I came to the UK from Hong Kong. Long before others, Paddy Ashdown fought for our right to come to the UK as British Nationals, and now Ed Davey and our parliamentarians continue to speak out to protect Hong Kongers and support those arriving in the UK. Some are dissidents, some come because they have family members here, but all are horrified at the behaviour of the CCP and the Hong Kong Authorities over recent years, killing democracy and removing human rights. 

Perhaps a real-life story will explain. “Emily” was a young mum who used to live in Hong Kong. Back in 2019, like most people in the city, she joined the peaceful protests against the Hong Kong government. She was fighting for not only her own civil liberties, but also for her family, particularly for her newborn child, so they could enjoy living in the city without fear.

But the Hong Kong National Security Law in 2020 and the crackdown of protest movements changed everything. Before, the city was a dynamic place with freedom guaranteed. Now, the city is under suppression. As Carrie Lam, the former Chief Executive, once said, “They have no stake in society which so many people have helped to build.” Protests against the government had become very risky, if not outrightly banned like the Tiananmen Square vigils.

“Emily” could not see the future of her family staying in the city, and followed her democratic beliefs. She decided to flee to the UK under the British National Overseas (‘BN(O)’) visa scheme – which Paddy had championed.

Once here she wanted to apply the right to abode for her newborn baby, so her child could live in an environment free from the fear of being arrested. When she spoke to the officials in the Home Office, astonishingly (& wrongly) they told her because her new-born child was born in Hong Kong, she needed to attend the Chinese embassy to obtain the relevant Chinese travel document before she could carry on with the application. 

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Sushi protests show Hong Kong’s spirit is unabated – but it’s not enough!

Recently, there has been a sudden surge in the popularity of sushi and sashimi in Hong Kong. Long queues can be seen outside sushi restaurants, and the sashimi and sushi in supermarkets are quickly sold out every day. This is happening after the Hong Kong government announced a ban on imports of Japanese seafood. The Japanese Consulate in Hong Kong has expressed its gratitude on social media to the Hong Kong people for their “rational consumption.” In present-day Hong Kong, under the implementation of the national security law, citizens have found a way to express their lack of trust in the government through collective consumer action.

At the beginning of this year, the Hong Kong government lifted all the restrictions that were imposed due to the pandemic. As a result, some groups applied to the police for permission to hold protests. On International Women’s Day and Labor Day, they planned to organize events with only a few hundred participants. However, the police put pressure on the organizing groups, claiming that there were many threatening comments on their social media platforms, suggesting the intention to use violence against the police during the events. This eventually forced the groups to cancel their planned activities. Subsequently, media outlets published investigative reports revealing that all those threatening comments originated from pro-government internet users or fake accounts.

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6 July 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Sunak must show some backbone & commit to voting to suspend Pincher
  • Horizon deal: Refusing to sign up would be “needless act of self-harm”
  • Layla Moran calls for sanction of Hong Kong officials
  • Covid inquiry court ruling: Victory for transparency and humiliating defeat for Sunak

Sunak must show some backbone & commit to voting to suspend Pincher

Responding to the news that the House of Commons standards committee has said Chris Pincher should be suspended, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

Chris Pincher adds his name to the long list of disgraced former Conservatives caught up in sleaze and scandal.

After missing so many vital votes in Parliament, Rishi Sunak must finally show some backbone and confirm he will vote to suspend Chris Pincher.

Sunak promised to govern with integrity, he must vote with it.

Horizon deal: Refusing to sign up would be “needless act of self-harm”

Responding to reports that the UK and EU have reached a draft deal on Horizon Europe but that Rishi Sunak has not yet signed it off, Liberal Democrat Europe Spokesperson Layla Moran MP commented:

Refusing to sign up to research cooperation with Europe would be a senseless act of self-harm.

We’ve seen too many false dawns over Horizon Europe, every day that is wasted means more scientists deprived of funding.

The Government has trashed our relationship with Europe, put up needless trade barriers and prevented scientists from cooperating on everything from tackling climate change to curing cancer.

It’s vital that Rishi Sunak approves this deal as soon as possible – it’s a no brainer.

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Reflections of a Hong Konger

Anyone who knows me knows that I am one of those who loves reading and analysing everything to death after. This makes me a somewhat useful yet, sometimes, annoying tutor. This skill suited me well when I was in the market intelligence and industry analysis world, but, that is another story I will tell another day.

Recently, I tutored a Hong Kong student who migrated with his family to the UK in 2021. He was undergoing his GCSEs and I was helping him with English Literature. One book that stood out to me, which I explored with him was “An Inspector Calls” by JB Priestly.

In my analysis with my student, we discussed how this Yorkshire playwright and writer subtly and yet openly criticised the class segregation and discrimination in society, the double standards and the hypocrisy behind women’s charities which are said to help the destitute women in society. Sounds familiar? In today’s society, with the advent of social media, which I see as both a blessing and a curse, non-profit organisations are under more scrutiny than ever before.

Since the launch of the British National Overseas visa scheme for Hong Kongers to settle in the UK, support groups, organisations, charities and CiCs have been set up claiming to lend a helping hand to the new migrants. In one of the conferences I attended recently, a very good question was asked: “Why isn’t there a common platform to bring these organisations together to put out their offerings to those who are moving or have moved to the UK?”  Of course this has to be done with the consent and willingness to collaborate from the organisations.

As Kevin Lam, Chair of Hong Kong Subgroup in Chinese Liberal Democrats, once shared: Hong Kongers have the mentality of not wanting to be a burden or kick up a fuss. They just want to make the best use of their skills and contribute to the economy. While many are prepared to face challenges and adapt, there are still hurdles to jump over and unexpected issues to face being in a different culture and environment. The recent suicide of a 27 year old BNO visa migrant has brought about shock waves in the community. It also brought the community in UK together, reaching out to each other.

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What Xi Jinping is planning on Taiwan

The former Moscow correspondent for NBC Ian Williams wrote an article in The Spectator dated 22nd March, describing what happened when Xi Jinping said goodbye to Vladimir Putin when their summit ended in the Kremlin last month. Xi suddenly turned to Putin and said, which seemed unscripted, “Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years, and we are driving this change together”. Then “The two men clasped hands, smiling. ‘I agree,’ Putin said, briefly bringing up his free hand to hold Xi’s arm. The Chinese leader then added, ‘Please take care, dear friend'”.

What is the “change” that Xi was speaking about? In the last decade, the state media of China has presented the idea of “the East rises, the West declines” to the people, saying that China will become the greatest global power in the foreseeable future. Then the rules of the world will be changed – It was the West who set the rules in the last century, but eventually, the East will become the one to decide. Therefore, Xi was telling Putin: we will overturn those rules together.

That’s why I disagree with US State Secretary Antony Blinken when he said China and Russia are in “a marriage of convenience”, I believe Xi and Putin are soulmates who share the same ideology. The new evidence is the words from the Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye in LCI interview. He reveals Xi’s true thoughts: if the previous Soviet states have no effective status in international law, Putin is righteous to reclaim all those countries. Xi will fully support Putin in doing so; in return, Putin must back Xi to achieve his historical mission, the “reunification” with Taiwan.

US President Biden told the media that he believes there is no imminent threat of a Taiwan invasion after he met with Xi Jinping last November. Reports said Xi promised Biden that China would not take any military action during Biden’s first presidency. Can Xi be trusted? Well, technically, yes, Xi needs time to prepare to strike. We need to know that the failure of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine does not make Xi hesitate but to refine his war plan on Taiwan to justify himself to become the Fuhrer of China.

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What support do Hong Kong people need in the UK?

A few weeks ago, there were some social media feeds celebrating the 2nd anniversary of the opening of the Hong Kong British Nationality Overseas (BN(O)) scheme on the Home Office’s Twitter, such as “the UK is proud to have welcomed 144,500 people from Hong Kong”, “many Hong Kongers have said living in Britain is like coming home”.

Unfortunately not every Hong Konger in the UK feels at home.

A recent tragic story, that has been discussed a lot amongst the Hong Kong community, was that of a 27 year-old Hong Kong migrant who took her life after seven months in the UK. This news even spread to mainland China, but unfortunately was even less known here in the UK, where this heartbreaking tragedy took place.

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Review: Revolution of our Times

Revolution of our Times is a truly powerful film screened in London in March 2022.

The film shows real footage of more than one million people on the streets of Hong Kong protesting the introduction of the Extradition Bill about to be enacted against Hong Kong citizens whose only act was to upset the Chinese Communist State.

The spontaneous protest demonstrated how unpopular the proposed extradition law to mainland China was.  Witnessed by the arbitrary arrest of three booksellers in Hong Kong who dared to sell banned publications.  The people now called for the repeal of the extradition law as a breach of the Sino British Joint Declaration which guaranteed Hongkongers their freedoms for another 50 years from the handover of HK to China in 1997.

The crowds consisted of men, women, students as well as ordinary workers.  There were peaceful ranks of protesters with banners and umbrellas just using their voice.  As the numbers of protesters swelled, the main downtown districts of HK were filled with their chants for their five key demands: to withdraw the extradition bill; to stop labelling protesters as “rioters”; to drop charges against protesters; to conduct an independent inquiry into police behaviour; to implement genuine universal suffrage for both the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.

What started as peaceful protest soon became a standoff between the people and the police.  More and more strong armed tactics were being used including the use of teargas, rubber bullets, water canon and eventually live fire.  People were incensed and they went directly to the LegCo building where they broke into the main chamber causing damage to property.

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Welcoming Hong Kong residents

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This week, the US State Department issued an advisory note to US companies operating in Hong Kong highlighting risks that emerge from the implementation of the Chinese government’s National Security Law. US Secretary of State, Anthony J Blinken, has highlighted the “…persistent and politically motivated campaign against the free press, imprisoned Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, and forced the closure of that publication – a bastion of independent reporting. Beijing has chipped away at Hong Kong’s reputation of accountable, transparent governance and respect for individual freedoms, and has broken its promise to leave Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy unchanged for 50 years.”

Many Hong Kongers will feel that they are pawns in a looming showdown between China and the United States. Many are deciding that now is the time to emigrate including to the United Kingdom. Conscious that many former citizens of Hong Kong are settling in our community, I tabled a motion at last week’s meeting of Richmond Council welcoming Hong Kong citizens to our area. I was gratified the motion was passed unanimously.

I would encourage councillors (Liberal Democrat or otherwise) to look at the numbers of Hong Kongers arriving in their areas and consider bringing similar motions to their local authorities. Here is an edited version of what I had to say:

I would argue that, just as murder on the streets of Minneapolis impacts on us, so does the imposition of Chinese state authoritarianism in Hong Kong. Many residents will have close ties to Hong Kong through family, business interests or pre-1997 postings in the territory. The last governor of Hong Kong is, of course, resident in Barnes. We have unique, historical, and moral duties to the people of Hong Kong.

My wife is British Born Chinese, but her family are originally from Yuen Long, a town in the New Territories. It is a fairly workaday place close to the Chinese border. It is a place I have visited frequently with my family. The metro station is normally a peaceful but bustling place.

In June 2019 that changed. Dozens of men in white shirts carrying sticks, faces obscured by balaclavas, beat groups of commuters taking part in a peaceful protest.

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Focus on Hong Kong

This week’s news included an early “obituary” for Apple Daily, the eponymous newspaper founded by Jimmy Lai, a long-time critic of the Hong Kong and Beijing Governments.

The prediction of closure of the pro-democracy paper by the end of the week followed the arrests of the executives (including the editor-in-chief and the chief executive) and freezing of the assets of the parent company, Next Digital.  All the staff of the publication are expected to resign this week and the last issue may be the June 26 edition.

This news is remarkable to me in 2 respects: 

First, that the charges made against Apple Daily and its executives were based on breaches of the National Securities Legislation (NSL) for alleged “collusion with a foreign country” to endanger national security.  Which foreign country is implicated here?  The US, one assumes, rather than the UK, as there is a narrative that Hong Kong is a mere pawn in the US-China rivalry.  But do HKers who object to the imposition of the NSL have to collude with any external forces?  Or are they simply objecting because they do not like to see the rights and freedoms that they had grown accustomed to being taken away? 

This new crime of collusion with a foreign country or external forces (one of the 4 new crimes introduced by the NSL on 30 June 2020, the others being “secession” “subversion” and “terrorist activity”) should raise alarm bells for us in the UK too. It would suggest that the more vocal the Lib Dems are in criticising China and the NSL, the higher the risk to our members and supporters in Hong Kong.  

Secondly, the authorities have frozen the company’s core assets even before trial or any legal process, as the NSL operates outside of the HK legal system.  As the paper is unable to pay their staff and even their utility bills, they are forced to shut-down.   Here is a clear example of an attack on independent media and critics of the government in the name of national security, and attacking where it hurts, at its finances.   

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Sanctions on Hong Kong human rights abusers work – we must press the Government to use them

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2020 has a been a difficult year for people around the world. In Hong Kong, however, the situation has been dangerous for political reasons as much as public health ones. 18 months since demonstrations started against a potential extradition arrangement with China, protests have turned into a struggle for the city’s soul. Hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers have taken to the streets, standing against the looming erosion of their freedoms.

Protestors in Hong Kong are fighting for exactly the liberal values that we hold dear in our party – democracy, freedom and internationalism – values which the encroaching illiberal regime in Beijing does not care for.

The state’s retaliation against these protests has been shocking and brutal. As a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong I have heard firsthand evidence of the police’s brutality. They have committed a plethora of human rights abuses, infiltrated hospitals and launched targeted harassment campaigns against anyone connected to the pro-democracy movement.

In July, a further blow was dealt with the introduction of the National Security Laws. The new legislation broadly criminalise acts such as “sedition” or “collusion with a foreign power”. This can be applied to any act which could be perceived as criticising the Hong Kong government, by any individual, anywhere in the world. I could be prosecuted for writing this article. Perhaps you could be prosecuted for reading it! Either way, the maximum penalty under this law is life in prison.

This already sounds like enough of a dystopian nightmare and yet things have already gone further downhill in recent months. In a farcical act, Beijing removed four Hong Kong lawmakers from the city’s legislative council for the crime of being “unpatriotic”. This escalating aggression should concern anyone who believes in freedom and liberal democracy.

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23-25 October 2020 – the long weekend’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats push for expansion of Hong Kong citizenship offer
  • PM’s failure to listen to scientists has made family Christmas less likely
  • Tories must “wake up to reality” and do the right thing on Free School Meals

Liberal Democrats push for expansion of Hong Kong citizenship offer

A Liberal Democrat Bill to grant all Hong Kong Citizens a pathway to UK citizenship and “strengthen the UK’s historic bond with the people of Hong Kong” is scheduled to have its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons today.

The Bill, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, would create a route to UK citizenship for all Hong Kongers.

By expanding British National Overseas (BNO) status to all Hong Kongers, the Bill goes well beyond the Conservative Government’s current citizenship commitments, which extend only to specific groups currently eligible to claim BNO status.

The Liberal Democrats have condemned the Home Office’s “deceptive” claim that the cost of a five-year visa for Hong Kongers will be just £250, as the true figure will be well over £3000 once the Immigration Health Surcharge is taken into account.

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28 September 2020 – Conference day 4 press releases

  • Liberal Democrats condemn Tories’ attacks on rule of law
  • Government must prepare for international ‘lifeboat’ system for Hong Kongers, Liberal Democrats warn

Liberal Democrats condemn Tories’ attacks on rule of law

In a policy motion passed this evening at the Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference, the Party has condemned “Dominic Cummings’ long history of attacking the rule of law”.

The motion stated “the rule of law is fundamental to our society”, calling for the Government to drop plans “to restrict judicial review, weaken the Human Rights Act or undermine the rule of law in any way”.

Following the motion being passed, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

This Conservative Government have revealed time and again their disregard for the rule of law. From their recent determination to flout it with the Internal Market Bill, to their attacks on lawyers as ‘activists’ or judges when they disagree with their rulings, it is clear that part of Johnson’s and Cummings’ strategy is to trample on our rights to achieve their aims.

When the Government rides roughshod over people’s rights, the law is the vehicle for justice. However, the Government’s plans to rip up the Human Rights Act and restrict judicial review gives Ministers the ability to break the law with impunity.

Liberal Democrats are clear – we will always fight tooth and nail to defend individuals’ abilities to challenge the Government in court and uphold their rights. It is more important than ever that we oppose these Trump-like tactics to erode our democracy, allowing Ministers to become above the law.

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Hong Kong – a dead end or a fork in the road?

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Chinese Liberal Democrats are pleased that there will be a motion, F31, to be debated at Autumn Conference on “Hong Kong’s Future.”  According to the Conference Agenda, it is scheduled for debate on Monday September 28 but at the unfortunate time of 18.50.  This means that anyone in Hong Kong who would like to participate would have to stay up till 2am, Hong Kong time!

This motion has undergone a number of redrafts, as the situation in Hong Kong is fast changing.  More recent developments such as the postponement of the Legislative Council elections on 8 September for a year till 2021 following the disqualification of 12 pro-democracy candidates from eligibility as candidates were not mentioned in the original motion.  Lib Dems Overseas has therefore proposed an amendment and update which we trust will be accepted for debate by the Federal Conference Committee.

In the meanwhile, I should like to draw everyone’s attention to a survey on Hong Kong which the Chinese Liberal Democrats have prepared to help in our research and policy making.  Do you agree, for example, that the new securities law breaches the Joint Declaration on Hong Kong and threatens “one country two systems,” or do you think it was China’s right to introduce this legislation as an annexure to the Basic Law?

And what of the Lib Dem offer to accept all Hong Kong permanent residents to emigrate to the UK, not just those with British Nationals Overseas status?  Is this realistic or practicable from the UK’s point of view, and do the Hong Kong people even want to up-root themselves across continents?

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4 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Government must act to strengthen NHS Test and Trace ahead of new school year
  • Liberal Democrats back calls for Magnitsky-style sanctions against Hong Kong human rights abusers

Government must act to strengthen NHS Test and Trace ahead of new school year

Responding to news that scientists have warned that current testing and contact tracing is inadequate to prevent a second wave of coronavirus when schools in the UK reopen, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

After months being cooped up at home, millions of children are looking forward to getting back to school in September, but safety must remain the top priority.

In the absence of a vaccine, a comprehensive test, trace and isolate system is the only way to keep people safe as we reopen schools. The Government must do everything in its power to strengthen that system if we are to have any hope of a safe start to the new school year.

Equally, the Government need to be honest about the very real risk that, if they do not get the NHS Test and Trace system in order, or in the event that we see a sharp rise in infections, children may have to go back to learning from home. Ministers must put in place safeguards now to ensure children are still able to get their education in this worst case scenario.

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22 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Mental health and education gap of homeschooling must be addressed
  • All Hong Kongers must be given right to live in the UK
  • £2.9 billion aid cut shows Government abandoning world stage

Mental health and education gap of homeschooling must be addressed

Responding to ONS statistics published today on the impact of homeschooling during the coronavirus pandemic, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

Coronavirus has clearly impacted every aspect of life, including the wellbeing of parents and children, and the quality of education the majority of children receive. We must ensure no one is left behind.

If it wasn’t for years of cuts to our schools and government failing to consult adequately with teachers and school leaders, it wouldn’t be this way. Ministers must now increase the necessary provision of laptops and introduce a Summer Learning Fund that supports the most disadvantaged children.

Moreover, the Government must address the mental health impact of the pandemic by signposting the appropriate support services to every household, and properly funding the charities that provide those services.

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20 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Test and trace privacy fiasco yet another blunder by Ministers
  • Government’s school funding plan shows no understanding of challenges facing schools
  • Government must set up lifeboat system to ensure safe passage for Hong Kongers
  • Government silencing those who get in the way of their own political interests
  • Tories’ plan to “take back control” proves to be empty words when it comes to trade

Test and trace privacy fiasco yet another blunder by Ministers

Responding to reports that privacy campaigners have accused the Government’s test and trace programme of breaking data protection laws, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

The fact that the Government have potentially broken the law is just another example of Ministers’ disastrous handling of test and trace. For the Department of Health to admit there was no consideration on the impact this would have on our privacy shows that this Government is simply walking into blunder after blunder, failing to get a grip on this crisis.

Of course mass testing, contact tracing and isolation at the community level for those who test positive, is the only safe way out of lockdown, but protecting individuals’ privacy remains of the utmost importance.

The Liberal Democrats have been clear that as long as there is absolute transparency when it comes to what information is collected, how long it is stored for, and who has access to this data, the Government can mitigate the concerns people have.

Ministers must get a grip of test and trace system if they are to keep people safe from coronavirus. They must do everything they can to not only protect people’s data and keep the public’s trust, but ensure we get an effective app up and running as soon as possible.

Government’s school funding plan shows no understanding of challenges facing schools

Responding to the publication of the Government’s funding allocations for schools in 2021-22, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

The Conservatives’ spending plans show no understanding of the challenges facing schools in September. They have asked schools to open as normal when our Test and Trace system is faulty. Teachers must try to reverse the harm to children’s learning, development and mental health, when many disadvantaged children have disappeared off schools’ radars entirely during lockdown.

In the face of this crisis, spending plans announced last year are utterly unfit for purpose. All the Government has added is a catch-up premium worth just £80 per pupil per year, and a tutoring fund. It’s simply not enough to pay for the small group teaching that Ministers say our children need.

The pandemic requires us to invest in education at all levels on an unprecedented scale. That’s why Liberal Democrats have launched a five-point plan to re-open schools safely, provide laptops to those who need them and close the disadvantage gap, so that we can give every child a great start in life.

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Observations of an expat: The Thucydides Trap

Huawei, Hong Kong, Uighurs, the South China Sea, Chinese economic and military growth, “Kung Flu”, economic crisis, cyber-attacks, intellectual property theft, trade wars, sanctions, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping … are all combining to raise the spectre that the world is marching eyes wide open into the Thucydides Trap.

What, you may ask is the Thucydides Trap? It is a political/military term coined by American academic Graham Allison in 2012 to warn against the inevitability of war between China and America.

It was based on the work of the Greek historian Thucydides who explained that the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE) was the result of a growing power (Athens) rising to challenge the supremacy of the established power (Sparta) to such an extent that the only possible resolution was war.

The scenario has been used to explain the causes of several conflicts throughout history including World War One (Germany challenging Britain) and World War Two in Asia (Japan challenging the US).

Not all of the contests have resulted in an exchange of blows. The Soviet challenge was successfully contained at the Cold War stage. This was partly because of the nuclear-based Mexican stand-off and partly because the Soviet system failed to develop an economic model that challenged American supremacy.

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1 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt must not abandon Hong Kong youth
  • Govt must stop overlooking green investment to create sustainable jobs

Govt must not abandon Hong Kong youth

Following Raab’s statement that China has broken the Joint Declaration by imposing the new ‘security law’ on Hong Kong, and that the UK govt will now be offering a path to citizenship for BNO status holders, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson and Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong Alistair Carmichael said:

It is right that the UK Government are taking swift action to help protect the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, but they must go

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30 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt must act swiftly in face of new law to uphold promises to Hong Kong
  • UK economy will need a Green Recovery Plan to recover
  • Johnson’s speech offers no green recovery plan and no help for vulnerable people
  • Tories’ Immigration Bill will deal enormous blow to NHS and British business

Govt must act swiftly in face of new law to uphold promises to Hong Kong

Responding to reports that China has passed a sweeping national security law giving it new powers over Hong Kong, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson and Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong Alistair Carmichael said:

This new law crushes what

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9 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems secure cross-party call for Govt to take up Hong Kong Bill
  • Govt must prevent disadvantaged pupils falling behind due to COVID-19
  • Govt must help businesses and people excluded from support schemes
  • Govt wrong to deny Brexit extension

Lib Dems secure cross-party call for Govt to take up Hong Kong Bill

The Liberal Democrats have secured cross-party support demanding the Prime Minister take up legislation to go further in UK support for Hong Kong.

The cross-party groups of MPs, led by Alistair Carmichael MP, has secured the support of former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in calling for a UK response to Beijing’s recent attempts to force a new national security law on Hong Kong.

Amidst reports of Hong Kong police firing tear gas and water cannons at several hundred demonstrators, the Government announced last week new measures to support visa rights and a path to citizenship for current British Nationals (Overseas) holders in Hong Kong.

However, the cross-party group of over 50 MPs want the Government to go further and take up Alistair Carmichael’s Hong Kong Bill for parliamentary consideration, which would also ensure greater oversight over each party’s adherence to the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

MPs from all parties and all political persuasions are backing Hong Kong with one voice today. We are calling on the Government to take up the Hong Kong Bill on a cross-party basis for debate and amendment. This is a critical moment.

That the Government has started to take action to support BNO status holders is welcome. We can and must go further, however. Measures including targeted sanctions and a reopening of the BNO passport offer deserve a full hearing.

Beijing is on the verge of wiping out the basic freedoms of Hongkongers with its draconian law. The Government must stand with us and take up legislative action to support the people of Hong Kong.

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Support Hong Kong. Boycott HSBC and First Direct.

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A few days ago, June 4th, marked the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. It also marked the day that HSBC would announce the disappointing news that they were standing with China in support of its new “security” law.

It would be naive to think that the bank, which in its advertising has described itself as a “global citizen” actually cares about the citizens of Hong Kong. However by doing this they are making the assumption that you also do not care about the citizens of Hong Kong. Or, at the very least, you do not care about it enough to close any accounts you have with them.

With eight million customers in the UK, across their First Direct and HSBC brands, I’m not going to pretend that a few committed activists shutting their accounts will cause them to row back on their policy, but, that being said, I for one am also not content with sitting and doing nothing. I cannot “support” a business with my custom which chooses to favour a totalitarian state that quashes free speech and backs a law which has led to sustained protests in Hong Kong.

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Dominic Raab – Your proposal is neither practical nor financially feasible

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The Foreign Secretary had just announced a proposal on extending ‘leave to stay’ for British National (Overseas) passport holders from 6 months to 12 months if China forced the Hong Kong authorities to enact the National Security Law. It is still a short-term visa and the Government will need to clarify what “extendable with a pathway to the Citizenship” means. It seems the ‘Leave’ allows work and study during the 12 months stay, which will allow BN(O) status holders to live in the country.

The mechanisms on how the ambiguous proposal will work is all subject to the clarification from the Home Office and Foreign Office. Putting the many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ in the statement aside, the Foreign Office clearly may not have thought the proposal thoroughly before announcement. If you went through the details, you will find the proposal is full of flaws. One of the biggest issues will be the financial burden to the BN(O) holders.

With reference to the dominating speculation that the visa can be extended, BN(O) holders will need to pay £1,033 each time he/she applies or extends his/her visa, and an additional £400 for covering the NHS surcharge. From October onwards, it will be increased to £624. Therefore, the cost for extending their visa will be £1,657 each time.

If the BN(O) holders wanted to convert their passports to British Citizenship (known as ‘Registration’), under the current system, they need to first be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), and stayed in UK for another year before they can Register. ILR application fee is £2,389 and £1,206 for Registration.

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3 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Welsh Lib Dems welcome plans for phased school re-opening
  • China is being wilfully ignorant with Hong Kong response
  • Govt not clear on legal powers to implement local lockdowns
  • Govt must not risk going backwards on containing COVID-19
  • MPs need to urgently restore the virtual Parliament

Welsh Lib Dems welcome plans for phased school re-opening

Commenting on Kirsty Williams’s announcement of a phased return to school from the end of the month, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

Once again Kirsty Williams is setting the bar with regards to how a Government should be communicating at times like this.

She has clearly laid out her plans, and the rationale behind them, in an upfront manner. This will give parents, children and teaching staff the reassurance they need.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to getting our children back in the classroom and learning as soon, but only when it is safe to do so.

I am therefore pleased to see that no child is forced to go back, especially those who are shielding themselves or who have family that are shielding.

China is being wilfully ignorant with Hong Kong response

Responding to reports that China has warned the UK to “step back from the brink” over UK criticism of Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

China’s Foreign Ministry are being wilfully ignorant. The Sino-British Joint Declaration was not a unilateral announcement but a clear joint legal text, lodged at the UN. The clue is in the name.

Both the UK and China made promises to the people of Hong Kong during the Handover. Under the Joint Declaration, Hong Kong’s ‘one country, two systems’ way of life was to be protected and enhanced.

Beijing has shown increasing contempt for the Joint Declaration and it is clear that the government must now ensure all Hong Kongers are given the right to live in the UK. Liberal Democrats will continue to urge the UK Government to expand the BNO offer they have outlined.

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29 May 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt must fulfil duty to protect all Hong Kongers
  • Clarity needed about 5-mile rule
  • High coronavirus threat level raises questions about Govt’s priorities
  • Davey responds to furlough scheme details

Govt must fulfil duty to protect all Hong Kongers

Responding to reports that, if China imposes its new security law on Hong Kong, the Home Office appears ready to extend visa rights for all British Nationals (Overseas) in Hong Kong, whether or not they are current BNO passport holders, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

If confirmed, this is welcome news. This move is long overdue.

I introduced legislation to give the people of Hong Kong the right to live in the UK back in February. I am glad the government is finally listening.

Beijing has repeatedly shown contempt for the Sino-British Declaration. Under that Declaration, the UK has a duty to the people of Hong Kong.

The government must now ensure all Hong Kongers are protected. Relatively few people have BNO status as the offer was closed years ago.

My cross-party Hong Kong Bill would reopen the passport offer to also give young Hong Kongers the right to live in the UK, regardless of whether they are a dependent of a BNO status holder. I am urging the government to do this immediately.

Clarity needed about 5-mile rule

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have today called on the Welsh Government to give urgent clarity around the new 5-mile rule and how it effects different areas of Wales.

In the Welsh Government announcement today First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that two individuals would be allowed to meet, so long as they maintained social distancing.

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Britain’s stick – The Hong Kong Bill (Part 2)

Regardless of political affiliations, we can agree that Britain must find its voice on Hong Kong. In the last article we looked at the Hong Kong Bill correcting historic irregularities on British Nationality. The Right of Abode for British Nationals (Overseas) British passport holders is UK’s crucial response to protect all her people. It is also a tangible action, since it provides passage to these Isles. Yet, our diplomatic approach should be proactive and capable to respond to future threats.

Therefore, we move on to the next provisions of the Hong Kong Bill.

A regular report on the safety of British nationals in Hong Kong is necessary and it will provide the guidance to enact sanctions on person(s) or institution(s) if necessary. The Chinese government have made it clear that the National Security Law forced upon Hong Kong will be conducted under Chinese concepts. Special courts will be set up and legal representatives must be Chinese nationals.

So what makes ‘Chinese legal concepts’ so worrying? Under Chinese Law as simple as reporting, suggesting or researching meteorological data, outbreak of diseases like the situation in Wuhan back in December 2019 and food safety without authorisation or adhering to official lines is considered as subverting national security. China also rules by law instead of applying the rule of law. Its courts are known to protect the Party first and foremost when cases are heard.

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28 May 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt have “moral duty” to act given Beijing’s contempt for Joint Declaration
  • Govt must look closely at conflicting guidance on risks of schools reopening
  • Davey: Either PM and Ministers lied or have no understanding of lockdown rules
  • Govt must now give all Hong Kongers BNO Passport
  • Lib Dems: PM reaches new low in attempt to keep Cummings

Govt have “moral duty” to act given Beijing’s contempt for Joint Declaration

Responding to reports that China’s legislature has approved a new security law for Hong Kong, which would make it a crime to undermine Beijing’s authority in the territory, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

This vote demonstrates Beijing’s contempt for the Joint Declaration. It is an unforgivable move that threatens the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.

The UK Government must take immediate action. We have a legal and moral duty.

It is time to urgently reopen the BNO Passport offer and extend it to give the people of Hong Kong the right to live in the UK.

Govt must look closely at conflicting guidance on risks of schools reopening

Responding to the Independent Sage Group report suggesting that reopening schools risks pushing the COVID-19 ‘R’ rate above one, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

We all want to see children back in schools as an urgent priority. But not if this risks a new COVID-19 spike. The Government must guarantee that public health will not be put at risk as a result of a premature or rushed effort to get children back into classrooms.

Boris Johnson’s Government has repeatedly claimed to be guided by science. Ministers must now look closely at this Independent report to ascertain why those involved have reached a dramatically different conclusion about the risk of reopening schools next week.

The Government is asking a lot of parents and teachers during this crisis, and parents and teachers deserve clear, honest answers in return. Ministers must provide real clarity around the reasons for their decision in order to ensure that parents and teachers alike can have confidence in their plans.

Any easing of the lockdown – including reopening schools – can only happen once the Government delivers a comprehensive strategy to test, trace and isolate to prevent a new surge.

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24 May 2020 – the day’s press releases

And here are Sunday’s press releases. You may be beginning to discern a pattern here…

  • Govt urged to give Hong Kong citizens the right to live in the UK
  • Tory MPs must back calls for Dominic Cummings to go, and put fight against Coronavirus first
  • PM’s own judgement now in question

Govt urged to give Hong Kong citizens the right to live in the UK

The Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to reopen the British National Overseas Passport offer and extend it to give Hong Kong citizens the right to live in the UK following renewed police violence towards protestors in the Hong …

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Britain’s stick – The Hong Kong Bill (Part 1)

Yesterday, we provided evidence that China’s salami crackdowns are as sinister as a Tiananmen massacre crackdown. ( Article: Fallacy of reasoning from ‘crackdown’ to actions – The new TianAnMen crackdown) Some have wondered what sticks on Peking can be employed by Britain. The Lib Dem Campaigners for Hong Kong campaign for the Hong Kong Bill in 2 parts – 1. Sanctions, and 2. BN(O) rights.

Let us first look at the lighter portion of the bill – #2 BN(O) rights.

British Nationals (Overseas) passport holders are holders of a British passport and a British National. Applicants took up the nationality to agree with the British identity. While no European countries, including multi-nationality pre-unified Germany, forbids right of abode to some of their nationals; Britain created a second-class nationality for Hong Kong. China looks at nationals lightly too. From the Cultural Revolution to Tiananmen massacre, and from locking up Uyghurs in concentration camps to arresting Wuhan doctors who suggested the outbreak of Covid-19; Peking never shy away from human sacrifices in return for Party order. Is it Global Britain to suggest it too cannot protect all her nationals because of political considerations? Even till early this year, the government is anxious about offending China as if considering our immigration matters is sailing gunboats up the South China Sea. Peking must be laughing now. Even with its problems in the pandemic, Peking’s leadership follows Sun Tzu’s doctrine of warfare to the latter to seek attack when all others are in crisis, for this is to emphasise superiority (敵之害大,就勢取利,剛決柔也。). Simply put, “Loot a burning house”. Peking is invalidating a race – the Hongkongers, and British interests in Hong Kong as we battle the Coronavirus pandemic. The word ‘compassion’ was never in its vocabulary. Of course, we are a nation of ethical and moral values, perhaps, only with a short-sighted government. Whether it is a Rule Britannia pride, economic greed because of the average wealth of a potential migrant from Hong Kong or honouring social liberal values; it does rest upon our shoulders to show we stand up for Hong Kong.

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