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Hong Kong

Volume 664: debated on Tuesday 3 September 2019

3. What recent representations he has made to the Hong Kong Government on the political situation in Hong Kong. (912242)

6. What representations he has made to his Chinese counterpart on (a) tackling violence and (b) encouraging constructive political dialogue in Hong Kong. (912245)

13. What representations he has made to his Chinese counterpart on (a) tackling violence and (b) encouraging constructive political dialogue in Hong Kong. (912252)

We are seriously concerned, and increasingly concerned, about the situation in Hong Kong. Of course we condemn any violence, but we absolutely support the right to peaceful and lawful protests on Hong Kong. The route to resolution through the current situation is via meaningful political dialogue, taken forward under the high degree of autonomy that Hong Kong has under the model of one country and two systems.

I welcome the new Foreign Secretary to his position and congratulate him on taking up the role at a time of such calm. I asked his predecessor in June whether he would extend an invitation to any Hong Kong citizens at risk of persecution. Will the Secretary of State do his moral duty under the 1984 joint declaration?

I thank the hon. Gentleman and respect the fact that he has a longstanding interest in this issue. Under the one country, two systems model, and its manifestation through the joint declaration signed by the UK and China, which has treaty status, we gave a range of residents in Hong Kong British national (overseas) status. The importance of that is that we do not want to unpick, at least at this time, one part of the one country, two systems model. If we do that, we risk its not being respected on the Chinese side.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his position. I was pleased to hear his comments about the UK Government’s steadfast support for the joint declaration and the one country, two systems principle. Will he make sure that we continue to reiterate that very strongly, because that is a mechanism for driving peace in the solution?

My hon. Friend is right. I raised those issues with the Chinese Foreign Minister, State Councillor Wang Yi, on 31 July. I also spoke to the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, on 9 August. We support the one country, two systems model. It is important, as reflected in the joint declaration and the treaty-binding obligations that have been made, including to the people of Hong Kong—and including to respect the right of lawful and peaceful protest—that that is adhered to on all sides.

I, too, welcome the Secretary of State to his position. The Hong Kong police recently made further arrests, including of a 12-year-old girl. Violence is escalating, with reports that police are now using live rounds in conjunction with tear gas and water cannons. What representations has he made to the Chinese Government to ensure that violence is met with a proportional police response and that minors caught up in the protest movement are adequately safeguarded?

My hon. Friend is right. I have raised those issues with both the Chinese Foreign Minister and the Chief Executive. In relation to the conduct of the police, let us recognise some of the violence on the ground that they have to deal with, but in relation to disproportionate actions and overreactions it is very clear: the Independent Police Complaints Council is carrying out an inquiry. The point that I have made is that it has to be credible, and has to command the trust of the people of Hong Kong. That is what international observers will look to see.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s comments on the Sino-British joint declaration and how he is using it to engage with his counterparts in China. Can he give the House any information on whether international forums can be used to support the case that we are making that China should uphold its obligations to the people of Hong Kong, with the one country, two systems approach?

I share my right hon. Friend’s concern. The route through this is to de-escalate the tensions and to respect the one country, two systems model. At the international level, more and more interlocutors are expressing their concern about this matter. It is not just an issue for the people of Hong Kong, or for us, given our historical relationship with China and Hong Kong; it is now an issue of widespread international concern.

Will the Foreign Secretary update the House on whether in his conversation with Ms Lam on 9 August he specifically raised the question of moving towards universal suffrage to elect the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council members?

I talked to Ms Lam about our short-term concerns about violence and protecting internationally recognised human rights standards, which are of course, as the hon. Lady knows, reflected in the joint declaration. We also had an exchange of views about the fact that there are such widespread protests in Hong Kong that they cannot be put down to a small number who are engaged in violence. There needs to be meaningful political dialogue that touches on people’s deeper concerns about the autonomy of Hong Kong being respected.

The demonstrators have acted largely peacefully, but everyone in the House will have seen the footage of the police acting in an unjustified and extremely violent manner. With that in mind, will the Foreign Secretary commit to ensuring that the UK is not exporting crowd control equipment—water cannons, tear gas and so on—until that independent inquiry has been carried out and adequate safeguards have been put in place, and will he encourage our international partners to do the same?

This is something we are now discussing more and more with our international partners in all parts of the world. It is not just a European issue; transatlantically there are concerns, too. We have raised the issue, to which the hon. Gentleman refers, of a disproportionate response. We also recognise that there has been violence. The answer and the solution is to reduce tensions and to respect the lawful and peaceful right of protest of the people of Hong Kong, but also to have moves and stepping stones towards the dialogue that will actually resolve the issue.

16. I declare that this weekend I went to Hong Kong as a guest of a group of democracy activists to witness the overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the fundamental problem is that there are people fighting for their rights under the two systems, one country model, when the authoritarian state China wishes to replace that model with the one system, one country model? (912255)

My hon. Friend is very knowledgeable in this area and I respect the fact that he has huge expertise. It is not clear, in truth, what the position in Beijing is. Actually, if we look at all its public statements, we see that it sticks and adheres to the position of one country, two systems. That provides the model that can resolve this situation, but we need to have respect for the lawful right of protest. We need to have stepping stones to build confidence towards a track of political dialogue. That is the route through the current situation and to avoid it escalating any further.