Why we should do more to support the Hong Kong protest movement

The 2019 General Election Liberal Democrats manifesto calls for standing to a peaceful world; not only because this is our value, but also everyone deserves a better world. When we jointly face challenges in our support for liberal democracies, stable partnerships are often fostered. One such alliance calls for “Honouring our legal and moral duty to the people of Hong Kong by reopening the British National Overseas Passport offer, extending the scheme to provide the right to abode to all holders”. Nonetheless, do words suffice in supporting the civilians in Hong Kong who are among those standing in defiance of brutal dictatorships?

Since the 2019 autumn conference, the situation in Hong Kong deteriorated substantially. By the end of December 2019, more than 7000 protesters had been arrested according to the figures from Hong Kong Police Force. For all that, it did not include those who disappeared after arrests, or those being transported to Mainland China. Two thirds of those arrested were between eleven to twenty five years old, and half of them were students. Some who were reported to have disappeared were later found dead under suspicious circumstances. New York Times investigations revealed police tactics on the day nearly caused a mass stampede as police deployed tear gas without warning, cornering civilians into a dead end. Demonstrators in that incident adverted mass injuries by shattering glass and forcibly entering an office building for refuge.

Lord Patten, former governor of Hong Kong, recently reminded there persists indiscriminate arrests. This affects both the protection and welfare of the populace. This comes back to the question of policing by consent. When Sir Robert Peel pushed for the establishment of a professional police force in England – which became the Metropolitan Police, politicians took extended lengths to establish the concept of ‘policing with consent’. The selection and their code of conduct were strict, the Peelers stood out in public and, more importantly, as a symbol of being accepted to patrol the law, they were unarmed.

Britain is a joint signatory to the Sino-British Joint Declaration; therefore, we have a duty to protect the well-being of the people of Hong Kong. We are facing uncertainty after Brexit, but it is the time to show the world that the United Kingdom will still be the model of Western Democracy.

Through the efforts of our party members, there will be an International Affairs and Defence motion on Hong Kong during the Liberal Democrats Spring Conference in York in March this year. It reads as:

  • Granting BN(O) holders the right to abode and reopening the applications of the nationality
  • Forbid UK manufacturers to supply equipment for HK police to suppress the protest movement by suspending the export licenses
  • UK government should use its diplomatic and economic power to pressure the Chinese government not to suppress the HK protest movement by mobilising its military force

It is a small step, but it will bring hope to those who suffered in Hong Kong, particularly when they cannot see where lights laid ahead of them. We should, therefore, proceed to actions to achieve our commitments.

* Larry Ngan is Data Officer for Brent Liberal Democrats, a member of Friends of Hong Kong and a campaigner on Hong Kong affairs.

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  • John Marriott 20th Feb '20 - 9:09am

    When I hear the name of Hong Kong I think of the Victorian opium trade and how we and other western nations exploited the old Chinese Empire. We accepted that, when our ‘lease’ on the colony ran out, that would be the end of it. What did we expect would happen, despite the reassurances from the Communist Chinese government? Just look at what happened to Tibet.

    I guess I’m sounding a bit like Neville Chamberlain did before the war about Czechoslovakia, “a far off country” etc. Like the USA, China has the muscle, both economic and particularly military, to do more or less what it likes. It’s a big fish, and getting even bigger, in the world of geopolitics. It certainly won’t bother what a minnow like us says. Mind you, didn’t we once offer residence to all those Hong Kong Chinese in the event of things going belly up? I suppose you could argue that we have a moral obligation to people who, until 1997, were subjects of Her Majesty. Now that would certainly blow a hole in our new, oven ready immigration plans!

  • nvelope2003 20th Feb '20 - 9:30am

    Allowing immigration from Hong Kong could be the only way Britain could prosper out of the EU. Many Chinese are dynamic energetic entrepreneurial people. They do not expect the Government to do much for them. Bring it on.

  • Johnny McDermott 28th Feb '20 - 4:52pm

    It would be good to see this post get bumped up to the top again. Far too ambivalent a response, though admit, I struggled to reply feeling grim about the prospects of democracy there.
    Some immediate action I discovered on Ed Davey’s twitter feed: https://www.libdems.org.uk/hong-kong?recruiter_id=1524862
    It’s not much, not the steps Larry rightfully calls for… but we need to be able to spin multiple plates. If we abandon HK and other international concerns (Afghanistan is on a knife edge and could use some support from external players that aren’t desperate to abandon them like the US) because of self-obsession (with domestic/ EU issues), we will do ourselves few favours. We certainly won’t be able to call ourselves internationalists or cosmopolitans with a straight face.

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