By Jim Shannon MP
The fundamental freedoms and laws of the people of Hong Kong are being suppressed by China’s draconian approach. The UK has a unique moral, legal and historical duty to stand up to China and to 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 have written to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab MP, urging him to grant Hong Kong the same respect by declaring a breach of the Joint Declaration, a legally binding agreement recognized by the United Nations.
The Joint Declaration was signed by the UK and China on December 19, 1984. 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 own “executive, legislative and independent judicial powers, including that of final adjudication” for 50 years. It is a legally binding treaty, registered with the United Nations, which remains as valid and crucial today as it did when it was signed 36 years ago. Ultimately, it protects Hong Kong’s way of life and the founding values and principles of the city.
China has taken every opportunity to dismiss and disregard this vital Declaration, and the rules-based international order around which it operates. It has unlawfully imposed restrictions on Hongkongers which encroach upon the most basic freedoms and has unashamedly repressed and even tortured pro-democracy activists across the city. If we are truly committed to protecting the rights that were guaranteed under the Joint Declaration, then the UK must speak up as a matter of urgency.
On June 2, the Foreign Secretary claimed that China has undermined the ‘one country, two systems’ approach. Whilst these statements are welcomed, a sustained and concrete response from the UK is the only way to secure an impactful outcome. The first step is to formally acknowledge that China has breached the Joint Declaration. I have written to the UK Foreign Secretary, urging him to speak up and declare this breach.
The UK government has argued that it “has an obligation and a right to monitor the implementation [of the declaration] closely”. As we celebrate the one year anniversary of the most recent Hong Kong protests, now is the time for the UK to honour our obligation and our duty.
Declaring a breach of the Joint Declaration is important because it will legitimise subsequent meaningful acts that the UK government can thereafter engage with, including imposing Magnitsky-style sanctions on senior officials across Hong Kong responsible for alleged torture and human rights abuses. The first step to truly support Hong Kong is to declare a breach.
Britain has a legal, historical and moral duty to Hong Kong and to protect the rights and freedoms of its people. To honour this commitment, we must take concrete and urgent action to protect Hongkongers. I look forward to Dominic Raab MP’s response to my several letters written in solidarity with the brave Hongkongers fighting for their freedom against the repressive Chinese Communist Party which has incarcerated millions in mainland China for their faith, and has bulldozed Christian churches and imprisoned Christian worshippers.
Richard James Shannon MP is a Democratic Unionist politician from Northern Ireland. He has sat in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom since 2010 as the Member of Parliament for Strangford. He has raised numerous parliamentary questions and motions in support of Hongkongers.