I believe that the introduction of the Hong Kong Extradition Bill would have caused a chilling effect on Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms, guaranteed by the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and enshrined in the Hong Kong Basic Law. As such, I believe it would have constituted a fundamental breach of the one country, two systems principle. I was therefore relieved to see that it has finally been fully withdrawn by the Hong Kong Executive.
However, the protests have since expanded beyond the Extradition Bill and now concern the core issue of the relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing. I believe that the protesters’ demonstrations are the culmination of years of frustration and are based on the well-founded fear of interference by Beijing in Hong Kong affairs.
I am concerned by the steady erosion of compliance over recent years with the Joint Declaration. I believe the recent protests over the extradition proposals should prompt serious reflection on the condition of democracy in Hong Kong, and on the increasing crackdown on dissent and protest.
Last month, I wrote to the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, and asked him what concrete steps the UK Government is taking to uphold the Joint Declaration and protect freedoms in Hong Kong.
I have now received a reply from the Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Heather Wheeler, which I have posted below:
I share the Minister’s view that the withdrawal of the Extradition Bill is a positive step by the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam. However, the initial proposal of the Bill, and Ms Lam’s reluctance to withdraw it, has caused understandable distrust between many Hongkongers and Carrie Lam/Beijing.
The Minister is correct in saying that the only positive and peaceful way out of this situation is through inclusive dialogue, which sees the Hong Kong Chief Executive and, more importantly, Beijing recognise and respect the high degree of autonomy that Hong Kong has. The current protests and anger will only end when Hongkongers feel that their autonomy and freedoms are being safeguarded.
I am glad that the Minister has confirmed that the Government has, and will continue to, raise their concerns with Chinese and Hong Kong officials. I will hold them to this commitment and continue to follow this issue closely as the situation develops.
I would also like to take this opportunity to praise the bravery and courage of the peaceful protesters in Hong Kong who have stood-up for their rights against not only their own Government but the superpower of China. They have won a victory by ensuring that the extradition bill is withdrawn, but they still have unaddressed grievances. I stand in solidarity with them.