Following yet another weekend of protests, I was pleased to have my urgent question on the situation in Hong Kong granted by the Speaker today. Here is the full text of my speech:
“This weekend saw over 400,000 people take to the streets of Hong Kong. It was the seventh successive weekend of pro-democracy protests that began following the Hong Kong government’s proposals to amend extradition legislation to allow suspects to be sent to mainland China, bypassing Hong Kong’s independent legal system.
Whilst the scale of opposition saw Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam suspend the plans, the Hong Kong government have failed to clarify why they have not been formally withdrawn.
The huge numbers taking part in these ongoing protests week on week reveal the deep concern many have that these proposals were part of moves to undermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence and could be used to target those who spoke out against the Chinese government.
We have watched with great unease in recent years as political and civic freedoms have been put under increasing strain. Those freedoms are guaranteed under the Basic Law, a core component of the Sino-British joint declaration. As the co-signatory to that treaty, which is registered at the United Nations, the UK Government have a legal duty to ensure that it is upheld.
This month saw the 22nd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule, and the day was marked by real fear amongst many people in Hong Kong that the principle of “one country, two systems” is being reneged on.
Media reports paint an alarming picture of an escalation in violence at this weekend’s protests. There have been reports of the police firing tear gas at protestors and unidentified masked men attacking commuters returning from the demonstration. 45 people were injured, including a journalist, with one person in a critical condition. This is the first time since the protests began that there has been this level and type of violence. Of significant concern is media reports that the police were slow to respond.
Coupled with the escalation in violence, reports this weekend also revealed that the UK Government approved an export license for £1.9 million of telecommunications interception equipment to Hong Kong.
Would the Foreign Secretary tell the House
· what human rights assessment was made before the approval of that license, given concerns that have been raised previously about the Hong Kong authorities’ treatment of protestors during student protests in 2014.
· how the Government intends to address these urgent issues
· provide assurances that we stand with the people of Hong Kong in defending their democratic principles.”