By Jim Shannon MP
The basic freedoms and laws of Hong Kong people are suppressed by China’s draconian approach. Britain has a unique moral, legal and historical duty to stand up to China and protect Hong Kong’s defining laws. As a representative of Strangford in Northern Ireland, where we celebrate our autonomy and the values that define us, I wrote to Secretary of State Dominic Raab MP asking him to give Hong Kong the same respect by declaring a violation of the Joint Statement, a legally binding agreement recognized by the United Nations.
The joint declaration was signed on December 19, 1984 by the United Kingdom and China. It legally guarantees the “high degree of autonomy” that defines Hong Kong as a unique place in the world. The declaration secured the city’s “executive, legislative and independent judicial powers, including the final decision,” for 50 years. It is a legally binding contract that is registered with the United Nations and is as valid and decisive today as when it was signed 36 years ago. Ultimately, it protects Hong Kong’s way of life and the city’s core values and principles.
China has used every opportunity to reject and ignore this important statement and the rules-based international order that it is about. It has illegally imposed restrictions on the most basic freedoms in Hong Kong and has brazenly suppressed and even tortured democracy activists across the city. If we are really to protect the rights guaranteed by the Joint Declaration, the United Kingdom must speak out urgently.
On June 2, the Foreign Minister claimed that China had undermined the “one country, two systems” approach. While these statements are welcomed, a sustained and concrete response from the UK is the only way to achieve an effective result. The first step is to officially recognize that China has violated the Joint Declaration. I wrote to the British Secretary of State asking him to comment and explain the violation.
The UK government has argued that it “has an obligation and a right to monitor implementation [of the declaration] As we celebrate the one year anniversary of the recent protests in Hong Kong, it is now time for Britain to do our duty.
Declaring a breach of the Joint Declaration is important as it will legitimize subsequent significant acts that the UK government can deal with, including the imposition of Magnitsky-style sanctions on senior officials across Hong Kong for alleged torture and human rights violations are responsible. The first step to really support Hong Kong is to declare a violation.
Britain has a legal, historical and moral duty towards Hong Kong and the protection of the rights and freedoms of its people. To meet this obligation, we need to take concrete and urgent measures to protect Hong Kong. I look forward to Dominic Raab MP’s reply to my several letters, written in solidarity with the brave Hong Kongers who are fighting for their freedom against the repressive Chinese Communist Party, which detains millions of people in mainland China for their beliefs and Christian churches looted and detained Christian worshipers.
Richard James Shannon MP is a Northern Ireland Democratic Union politician. He has been a member of the UK House of Representatives for Strangford since 2010. He has raised numerous parliamentary questions and motions to support the Hong Kong people.