The following Statement was made on Wednesday 1 July in the House of Commons.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement regarding the latest developments on Hong Kong.
As feared when I addressed the House on 2 June, yesterday the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing adopted a wide-ranging national security law for Hong Kong. This is a grave and deeply disturbing step.
We have carefully assessed the legislation. In particular, we have considered its impact on the rights, freedoms and, critically, the high degree of autonomy bestowed on Hong Kong under China’s Basic Law for Hong Kong and under the joint declaration, which, as the House will know, is the treaty agreed between China and the UK in 1984.
Today I have the depressing but necessary duty to report to the House that the enactment of this legislation, imposed by the authorities in Beijing on the people of Hong Kong, constitutes a clear and serious breach of the joint declaration. Let me explain to the House the grounds for this sobering conclusion.
First, the legislation violates the high degree of autonomy over executive and legislative powers and the independent judicial authority provided for in paragraph 3 of the joint declaration. The imposition of this legislation by the Government in Beijing, rather than it being left to Hong Kong’s own institutions to adopt it, is also, it should be noted, in direct conflict with article 34 of China’s own Basic Law for Hong Kong, which affirms that Hong Kong should bring forward its own national security legislation. In fact, the Basic Law elaborates on that, and allows Beijing to impose laws directly only in a very limited number of cases, such as for the purposes of defence and foreign affairs, or in the exceptional event of the National People’s Congress declaring a state of war or a state of emergency. None of those exceptions applies here, nor has the National People’s Congress sought to justify the law on any such ground.
Secondly, the national security legislation contains a slew of measures that directly threaten the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration. The House will be particularly concerned by the potentially wide-ranging ability of the mainland authorities to take jurisdiction over certain cases without any independent oversight, and to try those cases in the Chinese courts. That measure violates paragraphs 3(3) and 3(5) of the joint declaration, and directly threatens the rights set out in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which, under the joint declaration, are to be protected in Hong Kong. That in particular represents a flagrant assault on freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest for the people of Hong Kong.
Thirdly, the legislation provides that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, rather than its Chief Justice, will appoint judges to hear national security cases—a move that clearly risks undermining the independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary, which is, again, protected by the joint declaration in paragraph 3(3).
Fourthly, the legislation provides for the establishment in Hong Kong by the Chinese Government of a new office for safeguarding national security, run by and reporting to the mainland authorities. That is particularly worrying, because that office is given wide-ranging powers, directly intruding on the responsibility of the Hong Kong authorities to maintain public order. Again, that is directly in breach of the joint declaration—this time, paragraph 3(11). The authorities in Hong Kong have already started to enforce the legislation; there are reports of arrests by the police, and official notices warning the people of Hong Kong against waving flags or chanting.
In sum, this legislation has been enacted in clear and serious breach of the joint declaration. China has broken its promise to the people of Hong Kong under its own laws, and has breached its international obligations to the United Kingdom under the joint declaration. Having committed to applying the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to the people of Hong Kong, China has now written into law wide-ranging exemptions that cannot credibly be reconciled with its international obligations, or its responsibilities as a leading member of the international community.
We want a positive relationship with China. We recognise its growth, its stature, and the powerful role it can play in the world. It is precisely because we respect China as a leading member of the international community that we expect the Chinese Government to meet their international obligations and live up to their international responsibilities. They have failed to do so with respect to Hong Kong by enacting legislation that violates its autonomy and threatens the strangulation of its freedoms. It is a sad day for the people of Hong Kong—one that can only undermine international trust in the Chinese Government’s willingness to keep their word and live up to their promises.
For our part, the Prime Minister and the Government are crystal clear: the United Kingdom will keep its word and live up to our responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong. After further detailed discussions with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, I can now confirm that we will proceed to honour our commitment to change the arrangements for those holding British national (overseas) status. We have also worked with Ministers across Whitehall and have now developed proposals for a bespoke immigration route for BNOs and their dependants. We will grant BNOs five years’ limited leave to remain, with a right to work or study. After these five years, they will be able to apply for settled status, and after a further 12 months with settled status, they will be able to apply for citizenship. This is a special, bespoke set of arrangements developed for the unique circumstances we face and in the light of our historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong.
All those with BNO status will be eligible, as will their family dependants who are usually resident in Hong Kong, and the Home Office will put in place a simple, streamlined application process. I can reassure honourable Members that there will be no quotas on numbers. I pay tribute to the Home Secretary and her excellent team at the Home Office for their work in helping to prepare for a moment that, let us face it, we all dearly hoped would not arrive. She will set out further details of our approach in due course.
In addition to changing the arrangements for BNOs, the UK will continue to work with our international partners to consider what further action we should responsibly take next. I can tell the House that yesterday in the UN Human Rights Council, the UK made a formal joint statement expressing our deep concern about the human rights situation in both Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Twenty-six other nations joined that statement. It is the first time a formal statement has been made at the Human Rights Council on this issue, and it was delivered through our diplomatic leadership. We will continue to work with our partners in the G7 and the EU and across the region.
I say again: we want a positive relationship with China, but we will not look the other way when it comes to Hong Kong and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people. We will continue to bring together our international partners, to stand up for the people of Hong Kong, to call out the violations of their freedoms, and to hold China to its international obligations, freely assumed under international law. I commend this Statement to the House.”
My Lords, we support the Foreign Secretary’s view that a constructive relationship with China remains essential. From climate change to post-pandemic economic recovery, not a single global challenge can be tackled without such engagement.
However, we also need a hard-headed realism and to use targeted measures, in close partnership with our allies, to deter further aggression. If China is able to act with impunity in Hong Kong or the South China Sea, Taiwan could be next. The commitments made by Beijing in the joint declaration in 1984 have been ripped apart by the Chinese Government, and the international community must now step up to hold them to account.
I welcome the Statement. The Government have taken a step forward with the announcement of new rights for BNO passport holders and a statement at the United Nations, but this is no substitute for ongoing and sustained international leadership.
The Government must ensure that the offer to BNO passport holders does not discriminate and is not limited to the wealthiest residents. Will salary thresholds apply as part of the scheme for BNO passport holders? Has the FCO made any formal assessment of the numbers involved?
The oppressive crackdown on Hong Kong protesters expressing their human rights and freedoms requires an immediate response. Unfortunately, with the Magnitsky legislation still waiting in the wings, the Government are unable to target individuals most culpable for the situation we are witnessing. I ask the Minister again: do we have a date before Recess when the regulations will be laid? Will any of the initial designations relate to the situation in Hong Kong?
The UK must work with our allies at the UN and elsewhere to pressure China and the Hong Kong Administration to end their encroachment on Hong Kong’s freedoms. The Foreign Secretary told the Commons yesterday that he is
“open to the idea of a UN … envoy”—[Official Report, Commons, 1/7/20; col. 345]
on Hong Kong. We have enormous influence at the UN and a historical allegiance to the people of Hong Kong. We cannot simply wait for another member state to step up to the plate, so can the Minister confirm whether the Foreign Secretary has given any further consideration to spearheading a campaign for a UN envoy?
The G7 must also stand together as an unequivocal voice for democracy and universal suffrage. Australia and others in the group have made their voices heard but some members have remained almost silent. Can the Minister confirm whether there are any plans for further joint action by the G7 following the statement published in June?
The application of the national security law was expected. The brutal response to objecting protesters was, sadly, predictable too. The situation may escalate, and it is crucial that the Foreign Office is fully equipped to respond. To this end, what assessment has the Minister made of the suggestion by seven former Foreign Secretaries for the UK to lead the formation of an international contact group to monitor the situation on the ground and co-ordinate action?
Finally, in recognition of the large number of UK citizens in Hong Kong, I hope that the Minister will offer a few reassurances about their safety; for example, will the FCO update its travel advice following the Canadian Government’s new warning? What channels of communication in the pandemic situation—we have raised this before—will the FCO utilise with UK citizens in Hong Kong and should that advice be updated? Are the Government in communication with any UK journalists on the ground in relation to their safety, considering the use of force against members of the press that we have seen. For too long we have no strategy in relation to China at home or abroad. I hope the Minister will give us a commitment today that this marks the start of a very different era.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for presenting this Statement. Hong Kong is in a terrible situation. The Government are right that the new security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the joint declaration. We have obligations to assist, as a cosignatory to the joint declaration—a treaty lodged at the UN. Already, there have been arrests in Hong Kong, and we see peaceful activists withdrawing from political comment, in fear.
In 1997, Hong Kong represented about one-third of China’s GDP. Now that is only 3%. We may see a thriving territory—the gateway to China—but China’s rise, and therefore the relative decline in Hong Kong’s significance, shows loss of leverage. I therefore commend the Government for their actions, given China’s economic and political dominance. But that makes it even more essential that international law is respected.
I welcome the proposals to grant BNOs and their dependants the right to live here, and to work or study, with a path to citizenship. However, this still leaves behind many young people who have been at the heart of protests and are therefore particularly at risk. Will the Government extend their offer to all Hong Kongers? What steps will the Government take to ensure that BNOs can leave Hong Kong to take up the Government’s offer if they feel the need to do so? Will the UK provide them consular protection? What liaison has there been with Carrie Lam’s office to ensure that those arrested will be immediately released, given that she emphasises that the new law does not crack down on freedom of expression? What steps are the Government taking to ensure that Hong Kongers in the UK or British citizens and British-based businesses will not be targeted? What is happening in relation to the proposed UN special envoy for Hong Kong to monitor human rights there? Are we looking at the Magnitsky sanctions in relation to human rights abuses there?
Does the Minister know if British judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal feel that they can continue, and what might be the future for Taiwan? I am very glad to hear in the Statement of the report of the UN Council on Human Rights about the situation both in Hong Kong and Zhenjiang. Reports of the treatment of the Uighurs are horrifying. Can he say whether full consideration has yet been given to the China tribunal’s conclusions about forced organ harvesting? I note that the countries which supported us in that statement to the Human Rights Council are largely European, but notably not all EU countries, together with Australia, New Zealand and Canada. There are no Asian, African or Latin American countries, unless you count Belize in Central America and one Micronesian island. There is no widespread support from the Commonwealth, which clearly is not going to replace the EU as a supportive bloc for us and the rules-based order. Does he worry about those omissions, bearing in mind the heavy Chinese engagement in many regions of the world?
This is a dangerous time for Hong Kong and I am very glad that we are offering the refuge that we are, although that loss to the territory further damages Hong Kong itself. But wider than that, China’s actions are immensely worrying for future global relations and the rules-based order. There are indeed so many issues that must be faced together, including, of course, climate change.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for their support for my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary’s Statement. As my right honourable friend has said previously, we delivered on what we hoped we would not have to deliver, as a consequence of the decision taken to impose this new law on the people of Hong Kong. As both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness acknowledged, this is a breach, and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have both been clear, during Prime Minister’s Questions and the Statement yesterday in the other place, that this does represent a breach of the “one country, two systems” agreement, which has been signed. As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, reminded us, it has status because it has been deposited within the context and the confines of the United Nations. Moreover, it is also a breach of China’s own Basic Law for Hong Kong, as it contravenes the scope of Article 23.
I turn now to some of the specific questions, points and observations made by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness. I say first to the noble Lord, Lord Collins —I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, agrees with this, as do we all—that China has an important role to play in our current international system and in the context of the United Nations. Further, as I have acknowledged from this Dispatch Box, it is also playing an important role in meeting the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has assisted many countries in procuring, for example, ventilators and PPE equipment. We acknowledge that, and I know that that view is shared by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, alluded to the importance of addressing climate change. China will be hosting an important conference next year, as will we at COP 26. It is important that we work together, because while the focus of the world has rightly been on the Covid-19 pandemic, one should not forget for a moment the challenges posed by climate change. Addressing these issues without China’s direct engagement will not result in the success from a global perspective that we all seek. However, I repeat what I have said previously: we are clear-eyed in our Statement, and regarding our relationship with China. China is a key partner for us in many areas. However, as this issue, on which we disagree very strongly, has illustrated, we carry a special responsibility when it comes to Hong Kong, as yesterday’s announcement again confirmed.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked who will be eligible under the announcement that has been made. As I mentioned in your Lordships’ House a few days ago, we estimate that some 2.9 million people will be eligible. That includes those who currently have BNO status, those who would qualify for BNO status if they applied for it and, of course, their dependants. That will be applied universally.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked about other young people. Looking at the media reports and current reporting, it was deeply concerning that only yesterday, as soon as the law came into effect, a number of individuals were detained under its provisions. We have already relayed these concerns: yesterday the Chinese ambassador to the UK was summoned to the Foreign Office and met the PUS, and we asked specifically about China’s intent in terms of the implementation of the new law, particularly under certain key sections. We will continue to keep that very closely monitored and under review. Of course, if people seek to apply for asylum in the United Kingdom, their applications will continue to be looked at on their merits.
I speak as a Minister but also in a role which both noble Lords know that I take very seriously—that of a human rights Minister. In our country’s history we have long been supportive of those who have spoken out against oppression around the world. That should be the case today—and I am proud to say that it is—and it should be the case in the future as well.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, both touched on the important issue of the Magnitsky global human rights regime and sanctions regime. I wish I could provide a specific answer to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, but I reassure him once again that we are looking to introduce the new regime very shortly. There are procedures and timings to go through but, as I have said to the House, it will certainly be before the Summer Recess and, as a sanctions Minister, I have been closely involved in progress in this respect. I pay tribute to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, who I know has taken a very personal interest in this particular issue and is seeking to bring it forward at the earliest opportunity.
The noble Baroness and the noble Lord asked about work within the UN. As a human rights Minister, I was directly involved in working with the 27 countries, including the United Kingdom, which signed and supported the statement that our ambassador delivered at the UN Human Rights Council. It covered—as the noble Baroness rightly acknowledged—not only the situation in Hong Kong but the appalling situation suffered in particular by the Uighurs in Xinjiang. We will continue to raise that issue with partners.
The noble Baroness asked about key partners. I have just come from a virtual meeting of the UN Security Council, which looked specifically at the importance of peace and securing peace in the context of the Covid crisis. The meeting was chaired by our German partners, and I was pleased to attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. We continue to work with our European partners, as well as others, in support of human rights, the rule of law, standing up for obligations and media freedom—again, a point mentioned by noble Lords.
The noble Baroness rightly mentioned her concerns about working through the context of the Commonwealth and other alliances. We continue to do so and need to do more; I fully acknowledge that. We need to make a very strong case on the premise of human rights and continue to make the case for upholding and strengthening the international rules-based system.
Coming back to my original point about the relationship with China today, China has, and is playing, an important role on the world stage. It also has international obligations on the world stage. We will continue to remind China of those obligations and to work together where our interests are aligned positively, in areas such as Covid-19 and climate change. However, this will not prevent us raising our deep concerns about the human rights situation in mainland China and, of course, the recent announcement made by the Chinese authorities on the new law for Hong Kong.
We therefore again appeal to the Chinese authorities to reconsider their approach, but in the interim we have now embarked on a particular route, and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be coming forward with further details of the announcements and operation of the new scheme. I am sure both noble Lords have seen the details of what we have announced thus far, and that will ultimately lead to a pathway to citizenship.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, also asked about British judges. That is an important point because, under this law, the appointment of those judges has switched. It has gone from the Chief Justice to the Chief Executive. We believe that that upholds neither the principles of China’s basic Hong Kong law nor the spirit and details of the agreements that we have signed, including the joint declaration. That is therefore a worrying development; we will look at it closely because other announcements have been made as part of it, including on setting up local committees to look at the enforcement of the law. Again, we believe that that goes directly against both elements of the joint agreement and China’s basic law for Hong Kong.
I assure the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that we will continue to work actively on the world stage. They asked about the UN rapporteur. In that regard, let me assure them that my right honourable friend has very much led from the front on this issue. I pay tribute to his efforts, particularly at the G7. As I said, we have worked closely on securing support with 26 other countries that, like us, are on the Human Rights Council. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said, if we need to explore further diplomatic routes, we will continue to do so.
My Lords, what analysis have the Government made of the implications of Article 38 of the new law for all of us in the UK? It appears to imply that if a non-Hong Kong resident travels to Hong Kong, either as a tourist or on business, they could face prosecution there for things that they had said or done legally in the UK.
My Lords, my noble friend is right to raise this issue, which was part of the Permanent Under-Secretary’s discussions with the Chinese ambassador. Does this apply just to those with non-resident status in Hong Kong, or does it apply not just to those people who have travelled elsewhere in the world but to everyone? That has not been made clear and we will continue to seek that clarification. We outlined those concerns in our meeting with the Chinese ambassador yesterday.
My Lords, in announcing the decision on BNO passports, what consideration has been given to the likely Chinese reaction? I believe that there is a provision in an annexe to the joint declaration stating that BNOs will not have the right of abode in the UK. What happens if China retaliates by removing some of the Hong Kong rights of BNOs on the basis that they can no longer be considered citizens of Hong Kong? This is scarcely a comfort to those who wish to continue to work and live in Hong Kong.
My Lords, what has happened through the announcement by the Chinese is a breach of the joint declaration.
The noble Lord is correct to say that the BNO status made provisions specifically for those who would stay resident in Hong Kong. Within that, special provisions were granted that would allow them to visit the UK without visa access, but the joint declaration has been breached. We have always retained that we have an obligation to those with BNO status and those who are eligible for that status. We are now carrying out measures and have made announcements to that effect to support them. For those who wish to come to the UK, there is a pathway to citizenship. They must go through due process, meaning that, after their arrival, they will be given leave to remain. Importantly, they will have the right to remain and work in the United Kingdom. After the five-year period, they will be allowed to embark on a route to citizenship. That is the right thing to do; it is within our obligations to the people of Hong Kong.
As to what the Chinese reaction will be to that, we implore them to recognise that Hong Kong has a special status. It has served the Chinese and the global community well. We should seek to retain the freedoms and liberties that it has enjoyed since the signing of that agreement.
My Lords, I thank the Foreign Secretary for his Statement yesterday. There have been two deeply disturbing and related developments in Hong Kong in the past few days. One has been the police brutality against pro-democracy protesters. The United Kingdom must lead an international inquiry into that police brutality, as the pepper spray and the arrests have a chilling effect on democracy. The second adverse development is the adoption of the so-called national security legislation under which the arrests were made. This is a breach of the joint declaration. It is an assault on peaceful protest and human rights. There is to be a sinister national security office, run from the mainland; the independence of the judiciary is undermined; and the chief executive is not the chief justice but will select the judges for the cases alleged to concern national security. This is deeply worrying.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness. I have covered many of the points she has raised, and it will be suffice to say for the record that I agree with many of her concerns. Let me assure her that we are raising this with partners, looking at how we can collaborate and concentrate support, and bilaterally with the Chinese Administration directly.
My Lords, as part of the agreement we signed, special status was granted through the BNO route. We have made an offer respecting, regarding and upholding our obligation to them. However, there are many people who love Hong Kong and will want to remain there. That is why it is important that we continue, in parallel, to implore the Chinese authorities to create the conditions so that all Hong Kongers who wish to, irrespective of whether they qualify for BNO, can remain and prosper in Hong Kong.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his answers so far. History teaches us that when you have two autocratic regimes, as we now have in China and Russia, the only way for there to be some balance in the world is for western democratic nations to join together. Will my noble friend tell the House what concrete steps his department has taken to bring this kind of coalition about?
My noble friend is quite right to raise this issue. We continue to work through the UN Security Council, where, as she may know, this issue was specifically discussed in May. As I have already alluded to, we have discussed and agreed a statement this week in the context of the UN, through its Human Rights Council. There is also the statement and support that we have received from the G7. It is important that democracies come together. We will continue to work in this regard to ensure that the UK fulfils its obligations to those in Hong Kong, while respecting that we still believe that the agreement signed should remain in force for the period intended, which was 50 years.
My Lords, does this welcome BNO announcement include the 64 Hong Kong Military Service Corps veterans who applied for right of abode in March, and who, with other corps veterans, have had applications under active consideration in the Home Office for over five and a half years, without a decision? Does the Minister agree that these loyal veterans who served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces deserve priority approval now, and that their wish for a full British citizen’s passport, which other corps veterans received before 1997, should be met?
My Lords, I agree with the noble and gallant Lord about the importance of this. I am sure I speak for all noble Lords in paying tribute to those who have served our country and fought for it so bravely. Since the last time we discussed this matter, I have asked for a specific update from the Home Office; I will write to him specifically on the 64 corps members he has mentioned. On the wider issue of prioritisation, as I said earlier, BNO status is granted to all those who qualify, which is 2.9 million, irrespective of their status—the issue of salaries was raised previously—or what they may do. This is open to everyone, and that process will be announced in detail by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.
My Lords, the Statement is clear that it will not be possible for the UK alone to persuade the Chinese Government to respect their international commitments—a much broader coalition is needed. The Minister said something about the next steps for the work being done with the UN, the EU and other partners to achieve co-ordinated pressure on China: will he say something more about the timeframe? The Statement emphasises that a constructive relationship with China remains essential. China is the UK’s third most important collaborative research partner; it ranks ninth as a destination for UK students studying full degrees abroad; and a quarter of our international students are from China. Does the Minister agree that in standing up, as we are and we must, for the freedoms of Hong Kong, we must take care also that we do not stoke Sinophobia in the UK?
I totally agree with the noble Baroness’s concern. It is important that we value the incredible contribution of all our communities to the United Kingdom’s progress and prosperity, and the British Chinese community is reflective of that ambition and contribution. On the issue of further work within the international arena, as I already alluded to, we are exploring what more can be done. We have achieved a great deal in the time. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, talked about a strategy. I believe, having looked at this brief very closely, that, domestically and internationally, we have had a strategy in place, and we will continue to apply that pressure. The diplomatic channel remains open with China and we will continue to work with China bilaterally to raise these issues as well.
My Lords, the offer to BNO passport holders and citizens is welcome, but for those who do not have passports—about nine in 10 of those who are eligible—what mechanism is in place for the Government to recognise them if they come and seek to take up residence in the United Kingdom?
My Lords, I believe I have already addressed this issue. The route, or the programme which has been announced, is specifically for those who currently hold or qualify for BNO status and their family dependents. As to others, each case will be looked at on its merits. If someone comes to the United Kingdom, from wherever they may be in the world, and seeks sanctuary or asylum in the United Kingdom, that case will be looked at on its merits.
My Lords, I notice that the terms for people from Hong Kong are considerably better than those we are affording to EU citizens, many of whom have lived here for years. Will there be any salary threshold applied to new migrants who wish to come here, and will we treat them more favourably than EU citizens who are already here?
My Lords, I am sure my noble friend will recognise that the situation faced by those who are eligible for BNO status or have BNO status—or, indeed, Hong Kongers more generally—is markedly different from the situation faced by EU citizens, and therefore it is right that we have a specific scheme, as we said we would, for BNOs specifically.
My Lords, will the Minister convey to the Chinese authorities that, while they may unilaterally repudiate the Sino-British joint declaration, which has the force of an international treaty, the result will be that no one will ever take the Chinese at their word again, whether over Huawei or anything else?
My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that we have reminded China of that obligation. As I said, China has an important role on the world stage and needs to recognise that, if it breaks its word, it may not have the trust of the international community in future treaties, obligations and agreements that have been signed. That is a matter for China to consider very carefully.
My Lords, I welcome the Government’s Statement but we must tread very carefully. There is no doubt that events have seriously damaged the current economy of Hong Kong and its future prospects. China is building up and strengthening other financial centres to outshine Hong Kong and, although the PRC had hoped that making the Hong Kong system a success would attract Taiwan, it now does not seem to care about that. China needs to be confronted by a united and cohesive group of nations if there is to be any hope of persuading her to be a respectable member of the world community and possibly even to listen on matters concerning civil rights.
China’s recent behaviour on the international stage is a cause for concern; indeed, Australia is so concerned that it has just increased defence spending dramatically. Urgent action is needed. Does the Minister agree that we should, for example, encourage the largest possible number of nations to recognise Taiwan; set up a new south-east Asia treaty organisation on the sort of scale that we did with NATO in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union; and work with our allies, possibly through UN auspices, to review all trading links with China, ensuring that she acts legally in terms of market access, compliance with UNCLOS, the use of cyberspace and so on?
My Lords, there were several proposals there. Specifically on Taiwan, our position has not changed. We believe that the autonomy Taiwan enjoys needs to be protected, but equally it is for those on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to reach an agreement. On the noble Lord’s wider issues, we recognise, as I said at the start, that China has an important role to play on the world stage. Now is the time for China to show that it wishes to do so, but we will always make the case on human rights internally in China as well as standing up for those in Hong Kong.
My Lords, I too want to ask about Taiwan. It is anticipated that many Hong Kong residents, including those with BNO status, might wish to go to Taiwan. What further support and indeed recognition are the Government contemplating offering to the state and Government of Taiwan, whether to support them specifically in accommodating Hong Kong residents or more generally?
I believe I have answered what the Government’s position is. I add that when it comes to important issues such as Covid-19 we therefore support Taiwan’s participation in international organisations where it can contribute to the global good. Nationhood is not a prerequisite for that, and a good example is its participation in the World Health Organization.
My Lords, I commend the Minister in particular and the Government in general for their resolute stand and action on this hugely difficult issue. The message needs to get to the people of China, beyond the Government, that the Chinese Government are breaking international agreements and behaving badly; there is nothing Sinophobic in saying that. I suggest to my noble friend that we look at either restricting or ending visas for the tourists, students and businesspeople who come here. That may cost our universities and tourism some money but it is necessary to send a message to the Chinese people, particularly the growing middle class in China, that their Government are behaving incredibly badly.
China, Chinese culture, Chinese people and Chinese business have played an important role globally and will continue to do so. Our challenge is not with the Chinese people but with the Administration in Beijing, and we will continue to make that case very forcefully. China continues to make important contributions. We have always welcomed Chinese students to the UK, and I believe that that has been a positive thing for both countries.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for presenting the Statement. As the Chinese Communist Party breaches international law by putting an end to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, together with its harvesting of human organs from political prisoners and the sterilising of Uighur Muslim women in China, will the Minister give a further assurance to the House of serious consequences for the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, perhaps eventually by using the Magnitsky legislation? Does this not put the final seal on the involvement of Huawei in the development of 5G mobile technology in the UK?
My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that we will continue on all fronts to look at the human rights situation in China with respect to the points that he has raised. I have seen directly through diplomatic engagement that China does take notice of the international statements that we make through the UN system and the concerns that we raise bilaterally, and we will continue to do so. On the Huawei issue specifically, I know that colleagues in the digital department will respond in due course, but our position has always been clear: we want to protect our networks, and appropriate security measures are in place to do just that.
My Lords, given that the Minister has confirmed that its oppressive actions over Hong Kong are in direct breach of international law, will the Government now join our European Union allies in bringing China before the International Court of Justice?
Will Her Majesty’s Government urgently convene an international conference of democracies to seek to persuade the Chinese that they will never be part of the civilised community of nations if they treat their own people abominably and abrogate international treaties into which they willingly entered?
My Lords, in my view, we already have the vehicles for that kind of direct engagement with China, not just through democracies but through the UN system. We will pursue those avenues. On the wider issue of human rights and the obligations of any Government, wherever they are in the world, how you treat your own citizens is an important test to determine how you behave internationally. The concerns we have had with the Uighur community in particular, as well as with other minority communities in China, are well documented. We will continue to raise those concerns through international for a, including the Human Rights Council.