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Sino-British Joint Declaration

Volume 678: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2020

What assessment he has made of the effect on the Sino-British joint declaration of recent actions by the Chinese Government in Hong Kong. (904015)

What assessment he has made of the effect on the Sino-British joint declaration of recent actions by the Chinese Government in Hong Kong. (904027)

Today China has enacted national security legislation. We are waiting for it to be published so that we can see the details and assess it against what we have said before. When that is the case, I will make an oral statement to update hon. Members. None the less, at this stage what I can say is that the imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions, lies in direct conflict with China’s international obligations under the Sino-British joint declaration.

From what we know so far, it appears that Beijing has just voted to impose new hard-line national security laws on Hong Kong. They are widely thought to include a new law enforcement and intelligence agency to operate there, and to give the Chief Executive power to appoint judges to hear national security cases. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is only through an internationally co-ordinated action that we will be able to safeguard the hard-fought-for rights and freedoms of those in Hong Kong?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and of course it is contrary to, we believe, China’s own interests and also China’s articulation of the relationship with Hong Kong through the one country, two systems policy. As she rightly says, we have been working very closely with our international partners, the EU and the G7, and, indeed, we are raising the issue with like-minded partners in the United Nations Human Rights Council shortly.

A number of commentators have been conversely saying that Hong Kong’s role as a financial centre may be buttressed by the national security law as Chinese companies look to list in Hong Kong, now that they are less welcome in the United States. What does my right hon. Friend make of this controversial assessment, and what are his predictions for the future of Hong Kong as an international financial centre and the implications for both London and British interests?

I thank my hon. Friend, who makes a very important point. Of course, the success of Hong Kong—the entrepreneurial spirit, the vibrancy, the economic success—has been built on its autonomy in the one country, two systems paradigm. That clearly is under threat if China, as we now fear, has enacted the legislation and our worst fears in terms of the substantive detail are borne out; and of course it would be bad news for all international businesses, but, fundamentally, not just for the people of Hong Kong but for China. That is why, even at this stage, we would urge China to step back from the brink, respect the rights of the people of Hong Kong and live up to its international obligations through the joint declaration and to the international community.

China passed the national security law today. It is a direct challenge to the joint declaration and undermines not only the promises made to us, but those that we made to the people of Hong Kong. The Foreign Secretary told me in the House a few weeks ago that at its application, Britain would act. That law comes into force tomorrow. He must not waiver. Will he fulfil his promise to BNO passport holders? Will he stop dragging his feet on the Magnitsky legislation that he was once so keen to champion and give us a firm date? Will he confirm that this has now changed the Government’s thinking on Huawei? He said just a few weeks ago that we would

“live up to our responsibilities…to the people of Hong Kong”.—[Official Report, 13 January 2020; Vol. 669, c. 769.]

It would be extraordinary were the UK to turn back now. We must live up to those responsibilities.

I thank the hon. Lady for her support for the Government’s position, which, as we have already made clear, if once the national security legislation is published—she has not seen it because I have not seen it and it has not been translated yet—[Interruption.] Yes, but she has not seen the legislation, so I think the right thing to do is to wait to see it, but as we have made clear, if it is as we expect then it would be not just a challenge, as she said, to the joint declaration; it would be a violation of the joint declaration. It would undermine the autonomy of the people of Hong Kong and the freedoms. I welcome her support. It is incredibly— [Interruption.] She says that it is weak; she has not read the legislation—she cannot have done because it has not been published. [Interruption.] No, so how can she say that it is weak? I have already made a commitment to the House that I will come here to make sure that all hon. Members can be updated, not just on what we will do on BNOs, which I can confirm we fully intend to see through, but any other action we want to take with our international partners.