A new Hong Kong advocacy group fronted by conservative human rights activist Benedict Rogers officially launched on Monday in the UK.
Hong Kong Watch said it will act as a human rights “watchman” and a “whistleblower,” aiming to speak up if freedoms and the rule of law are undermined in the former British colony. The launch reception was hosted at Speaker’s House in the UK parliament’s House of Commons.
“What will Hong Kong Watch do? Lord Ashdown on a recent visit to Hong Kong said Hong Kong Watch will be a whistleblower, and that is exactly what we will do,” said Rogers, quoting the former Liberal Democrats leader Ashdown who is a patron of the group.
“We want to build our advocacy on research, on monitoring the situation, drawing on first-hand information, and then we will provide briefings, and seminars: spotlighting the situation. I think one of the reasons for setting up Hong Kong Watch is a sense that there is a lack of awareness about the situation. We want to address this in parliament and policy makers, and further afield.”
Rogers joked that the launch was exactly two months since he was denied entry to Hong Kong.
The event was introduced by the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow MP.
Patrons of Hong Kong Watch include Ashdown, former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC, former Labour Shadow Foreign Minister Catherine West MP, independent cross-bench peer Lord David Alton, and Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who was the chief prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic.
Lord Alton said: “We have got to be watchmen now, and use the freedoms and liberties we enjoy in this very privileged place to speak up on behalf of the people of Hong Kong. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said: ‘not to speak is to speak, and not to act is to act’.”
He said that the group will monitor both the Chinese and the UK government, to blow the whistle on Beijing when it has broken the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and to tell London to stand up and argue the case for Hong Kong stronger.
Lord Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, also relayed a message in his absence.
“It is important that China holds to its obligations under the Joint Declaration. Not only is this important for Hong Kong itself, but it will also be taken as a sign by many countries around the world about how much they can trust China to keep its word as the next few years unfold.”
“It is not external interference if friends or supporters of Hong Kong take a fair, informed and balanced view of the community’s development. It is simply a mark of continuing friendship for a great city.”