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Hong Kong: National Security Law

Volume 682: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2020

What assessment he has made of the effect of the National Security Law on the people of Hong Kong. (907434)

What assessment he has made of the effect of the national security law on the people of Hong Kong. (907454)

We have been clear that the national security law has had a chilling effect on society and that it constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British joint declaration. It contains a range of measures that directly threaten the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration. In response to the national security law, the UK has offered a new immigration path for British nationals, suspended our extradition treaty and extended our arms embargo on mainland China to Hong Kong. We urge the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to abide by their international human rights obligations.

In July, books by pro-democracy figures were removed from public libraries, and just last week Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, said that it was important to

“weed out the bad apples”

from the education system in response to a teacher “promoting Hong Kong independence”. Does my hon. Friend agree that the UK reserves the right to take further action to safeguard the rights of those in Hong Kong, especially if the human rights situation continues to deteriorate further?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have taken clear action in response to the national security law, including, as I said, offering a new immigration path for British national overseas passport holders, suspending our extradition treaty and extending our arms embargo on mainland China to Hong Kong. We will continue to bring together our international partners to ensure that we stand up for the people of Hong Kong, to call out the violation of their freedoms and to hold China to its international obligations.

Does the Minister agree that the national security law in Hong Kong has infringed the rights of many Hongkongers and broken international law by breaching the joint declaration? Will he now either urgently review his Magnitsky sanctions regime or outline how he intends to target those who instigate such appalling human rights abuses against this once proud British Crown colony?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that. As he will know, on 6 July we established our global human rights Magnitsky sanctions regime, and it is under constant review. However, he will be aware that it is not appropriate to speculate on who may be designated under any future sanctions regime, because to do so would reduce the impact of those designations.

Successive Conservative Governments since 2010 have been naive and complacent in their dealings with the Chinese Government. The resulting combination of over-dependence on China-based supply chains and the breaking of important international alliances has diminished our ability to exert influence on Beijing. Yet, despite these failings, there is clearly more that the UK could be doing for the people of Hong Kong. Will the Minister specify what the Government plan to do regarding citizenship for Hongkongers born after 1997? What consular support can he provide to the four BNO passport holders who are now detained in mainland China after attempting to flee? Will he commit to sanctioning the senior mainland Chinese Communist party and Hong Kong Executive officials who have been committing human rights abuses? It took the Government just days to sanction Belarusian officials. What, or who, is causing this delay?

We are working closely with the Home Office on our response for the BNOs, and there will be much more detail coming out in due course.

With regard to the cases that the hon. Member raises, we have raised the cases of the people detained in Shenzhen with the Chinese authorities in Hong Kong, and we have made it clear that due process should be followed. The rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong, including their rights to freedom of speech and assembly, are expressly guaranteed in the joint declaration, and rights committed to under the declaration must be upheld. Under the memorandums to the joint declaration, BNOs are entitled to consular assistance in third countries, but not in Hong Kong, Macau or mainland China. The Chinese authorities do not recognise dual nationality, and absolutely would not grant UK consular access for those individuals. On sanctions, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell).