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The people of Hong Kong need and deserve our support
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by Llyr Powell | @LlyrPowell
May 27, 2020 at 12:31 pm

The Chinese Communist Party’s action in Hong Kong should surprise no one. Beijing believe they can crack down on their dissidents while the world is focused on COVID-19.

Police in Hong Kong fired tear gas against protesters taking part in the first pro-democracy demonstration since China announced plans to impose a new security law on the territory. All while the British mainstream media focus on the life of a government adviser.

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Hong Kong’s crisis has always been an existential one, but it’s reached a critical tipping point for the first time in about two months. Thousands of activists marched through the city in what they called an anti-evil law demonstration.

Police used tear gas, pepper pellets, pepper spray, water cannon trucks and APCs against the pro-democracy activists. In contrast, Hong Kongers sang the anthem “Glory to Hong Kong” during this most difficult time.

The people of Hong Kong have shown immense bravery in standing up for their freedoms, democracy, and human rights. Reminding us, here in Britain to never take what we have for granted.

Hong Kong has always prided itself on following the rule of law, with an independent judiciary and civil liberties far beyond what is allowed across the border in mainland China.

These rights are enshrined within the Basic Law — the city’s de facto constitution — and guaranteed (in theory) by an agreement between China and the United Kingdom when Hong Kong was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997. Hong Kong, unlike China, is also party to international treaties guaranteeing various civil liberties.

The new law challenges all of this. By criminalising such a broad swath of ill-defined acts, it could give the authorities leeway to go after the city’s opposition as they see fit.

In China, sweeping national security laws have been used to target human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, and pro-democracy campaigners.

Chinese troops have been garrisoned in Hong Kong since its handover to Chinese rule in 1997, but the people’s liberation army of China has historically kept a very low profile. This began to change during last year’s anti-government unrest, as paramilitary troops were moved to the Chinese side of the border, and Hong Kong PLA soldiers engaged in clean-up activities. 

The proposed national security law — which also permits Chinese security services to operate in Hong Kong for the first time — has led to fears among many in the city that members of the Chinese people’s liberation army could be deployed onto the streets should protests resume.

In an interview with The Times of London, Chris Patten who was the last British governor of Hong Kong said: “I think the Hong Kong people have been betrayed by China, which has proved once again that you can’t trust it further than you can throw it.”

Lord Patten, is now leading a cross-party, international coalition of 276 parliamentarians and policymakers from 30 countries issued a statement decrying Beijing’s ‘unilateral introduction of national security legislation in Hong Kong,’ and calling for sympathetic governments to unite against this ‘flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration’.

The globally coordinated statement reads: “We write to express grave concerns about the unilateral introduction of national security legislation by Beijing in Hong Kong.

“This is a comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law, and fundamental freedoms. The integrity of one-country, two-systems hangs by a thread…Sympathetic governments must unite to say that this flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration cannot be tolerated.”

This is now the most serious threat to the people of Hong Kong that there has been from the Chinese Government since 1997. The people of Hong Kong need, and deserve, our support.

The United Kingdom and international community must ensure that the Chinese Communist Party abides by the ‘one country, two systems’ principle giving Hong Kong its own legal system and Western-style freedoms until 2047.

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