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As essential as giving Hongkongers a lifeboat is, it would be even better if they didn’t need it

2020/5/25 — 15:30

資料圖片,來源:Joseph Chan @ Unsplash

資料圖片,來源:Joseph Chan @ Unsplash

On 21 May 2020, the Chinese National People’s Congress announced that it would seek to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong, in an attempt to quell the 11-month long protests. The new law will allow state agents from China to come to Hong Kong to silence any dissenting voices which are perceived to undermine the authority of the Communist Party in Hong Kong. It will also seek to introduce “patriotic education” for the children of Hong Kong which will teach them to support the Communist regime uncritically. This is a flagrant breach of the “One Country Two Systems” principle, undermining both Hong Kong’s independent legislative and law enforcement powers, and the fundamental freedoms and human rights of its people.

This unilateral attempt by the Chinese government to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong has sparked both international and local outrage and condemnation. Our beloved former Governor Lord Patten of Barnes has led over 200 leading politicians in the world in voicing their grave concerns over the move. Tens of thousands of Hongkongers also took to the streets in a central business area in Hong Kong today (24 May), which was, as expected, met by police brutality, which has become a commonplace occurrence in Hong Kong in the last 11 months.

Many senior politicians and human rights activists in the United Kingdom, including our former Governor Lord Patten of Barnes, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Mr. Benedict Rogers and Mr. Luke de Pulford of Hong Kong Watch have been working tirelessly to fight for giving British Nationals (Overseas) holders in Hong Kong rights of abode in the UK in the last few years. It comes as no surprise that they have stepped up their work in light of the recent developments. It has also been reported in the Sunday Express today (24 May) that Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed a willingness to give Hongkongers a Ugandan-style lifeboat earlier this year should it become necessary. 

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As much as these efforts and gestures are appreciated by a Hongkonger like myself, and as essential as these measures are, it is my view that Britain can and should do more to address the “genuine grievances” of Hongkongers (in the words of Lord Patten of Barnes).

Nipping it in the bud: Help us so that we won’t even need the lifeboat

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The sentiment of the general population of Hong Kong is that we do not want to leave our home city unless it has become absolutely necessary. Many have actually expressed their desire to “live and die” with the city no matter what. Hong Kong is the place where we grew up, where our friends and families live, and where our talents are most appreciated and can be put to the fullest use. There is simply not another Hong Kong anywhere else in the world. Wherever we go, and even if we establish a new home elsewhere, there will forever be a heart-rending yearning for our first home in the far east, that Pearl of the Orient that once flourished under British colonial rule.

Furthermore, it must also be appreciated that it is never easy to emigrate to a new country. Friends and family will be gone, and so will the professional qualifications and networks of many professionals. For many, even with a British passport, the lifeboat is still beyond their reach.

In my view, it is therefore more essential for the UK Government to do more, so that Hongkongers do not need to leave their home city at all. Here are my four requests:

  1. Take the Chinese to an international court. As the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in his Joint Statement with the Australian Foreign Minister and the Canadian Foreign Minister on 22 May 2020, imposing a Chinese national security law in Hong Kong “clearly undermine the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’”, which was enshrined in the legally-binding Sino-British Joint Declaration. Will the UK Government take further legal actions to make China answerable for its threatened breach? While I appreciate that it may not be easy to take China to an international court (such as the International Court of Justice), it is a good way to exert pressure on China so that it must at least give a response to the “Court of World Opinions”;
  2. Invoke the so-called “Magnitsky Amendment” to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 and impose sanctions on any Chinese or Hong Kong officials and their families who trample on the fundamental freedoms and human rights of Hongkongers by imposing a draconian national security law on them. If necessary, this should also be extended to all who are complicit in this oppression but who are not public officials;
  3. Subject those Hong Kong senior officials (such as the Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the former Chief Executive CY Leung, and their families) who currently hold a British Citizen passport to a process of review as to whether to revoke their British Citizenship as a measure of sanctions. Why should they and/or their families enjoy the benefits of Western civilisation while they are seeking to deprive Hongkongers of even the most basic and fundamental human rights?
  4. Hinge any future trade agreements with China on its compliance with the Joint Declaration and other basic norms of the current world order. For far too long both the United States and the United Kingdom have harboured the naive view that if we appease China enough, by, for instance, granting it the Most Favored Nation status or allowing it to join the World Trade Organisation, it will learn to play by our rules. This appeasement policy, like the one adopted by Neville Chamberlain towards Hitler, has clearly failed to achieve its ends. Henceforth, the carrot should be replaced by the stick: if China refuses or fails to play by the rules, then it must be kicked out of the game. We need our Sir Winston Churchill to fight totalitarianism today.

The Chinese Community Party, like the Soviets before them, knows one language and one language only: power. Only real actions will make them re-think whether to impose a national security law on Hong Kong. Otherwise, any international condemnation or outcry will only be met with contempt.

Beware of the tares in the wheat: a refugee system

Even when it comes to giving a lifeboat to Hongkongers, there are two things to which the UK politicians should pay attention, namely, the tares in the wheat.

Firstly, it has become increasingly obvious that many who hold HKSAR passports are not actually Hongkongers as we conventionally understand the term. The now-detained deputy chairwoman of Huawei Meng Wanzhou (also known as Cathy Meng and Sabrina Meng) is one such person. In every sense of the word, she is both a Chinese citizen and a key player of the oppressive Chinese Communist regime. However, it has been reported that she has at least 3 HKSAR passports. There are undoubtedly many more cases like Meng’s. These must not be allowed to sneak onto the lifeboat in the guise of a “Hongkonger”.

Secondly, there is also a large group of Hong Kong people (known in the local community as “blue ribbons”) who are in open support of the Chinese or Hong Kong governments. Instead of being persecuted, they directly or indirectly participate in and faciliate the very persecution of the freedom fighters in Hong Kong. While many of them may have been born and raised in Hong Kong, and thus may have a BN(O) passport, they are clearly not the group of people who need the help of the British. If they are included in the passenger list of the lifeboat, they will only come to the UK to exploit their privileges, literally over the dead bodies of those young freedom fighters, who were killed on the streets or in the police stations, whom they have helped oppress and whom they despise so much.

One easy way to identify the tares from the wheats is to have a reviewing system: only those who were, and those who may be persecuted by the Chinese or Hong Kong governments should be given the ticket to board the lifeboat. Something similar to the current refugee system, which may be streamlined or expedited, should be in place to make sure that while we are saving the “wheats” from the sickle of the Chinese Communists, we don’t put the tares into our warehouse as well.

As essential as giving Hongkongers a lifeboat is, more needs to be done

Words cannot express how much I appreciate the efforts of those UK politicians and human rights activists who put everything they have into helping the people of Hong Kong. They are friends we do not deserve and we will be forever in their debt. Their efforts in fighting for the equal rights of the BN(O) holders will not be forgotten. However, as essential as this is, more needs to be done: rather than giving Hongkongers a lifeboat, is it not far better to nip the atrocity in the bud so that they will not need this lifeboat? The only way to remove the need is to stop China’s aggression against Hong Kong.

As a signatory to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the UK is in an even stronger position from a moral perspective to act and exert pressure on the Chinese Communists to protect Hongkongers than the Americans. The Americans have already begun their efforts, and now it is for the UK to join the alliance. It is not the time to appease. It is now the time to fight.

The future of Hongkongers depend on this. The cherished freedoms and values of the free world are at stake here. Please act now, before it is too late.

 

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