UK politician and London mayor hopeful Shaun Bailey has written an open letter to Hongkongers, calling for an end to the capital’s twinning agreement with Beijing.
Read Shaun Bailey’s letter to Hongkongers in full – click to view
To the citizens of Hong Kong,
Over the past few years, life in your city has changed. Your rights are being taken away. Your freedoms are being curtailed. And your autonomy is under threat.
It is an attempt by the Chinese government to crush the spirit of Hong Kong. That’s why our government invited Hong Kong citizens with BNO passports to settle in the UK.
You might be thinking about taking up this offer. In particular, you might be thinking about moving to London. I know that it’s a tough decision to face. Leaving the place you call home to live in a city nearly six thousand miles away.
My grandparents faced the same decision seventy years ago. After fighting for Britain in the Second World War, they moved here from Jamaica. But trust me, I’m grateful they did.
That’s because my family went from immigrants in this city to elected representatives of this city. It’s a story that’s only possible in London. So while I can’t tell you whether to move, I can tell you what to expect if you do.
From the moment you arrive in London, the course of your life will be in your own hands. You will be able to speak your mind without fear of arrest. You will live in a city governed by elected leaders under a predictable rule of law. You will regain human rights that the Chinese government took away.
More than anything else, you will be welcomed with open arms.
Because while the Communist Party might not recognise your value, Londoners do. We know that Hong Kong citizens have contributed enormously to the economic and cultural life of the UK. And we want to see that continue.
In fact, I want to go even further. If I’m elected Mayor next year, I’ll make standing up for human rights a key part of my agenda.
I will end London’s twinning arrangement with Beijing. Not just over China’s treatment of Hong Kong, but over China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims too. And I will introduce a free information service for Hong Kong citizens in London. Helping you find Cantonese-speaking lawyers, advice on the job market, places to rent, and more. Just like our city rightly did for EU citizens after Brexit.
London is a global city with global responsibilities. I will make sure we live up to them. So if you decide to move, I hope you will make London your home. All of us, Hong Kong citizens and Londoners alike, will be better off for it.
In the letter, shared exclusively with HKFP and The Times on Thursday, Bailey criticised China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims and Hong Kong, pledging to “introduce a free information service for Hong Kong citizens in London.” He said the service would provide Cantonese-speaking lawyers and advice on housing and jobs.
“More than anything else, you will be welcomed with open arms. Because while the Communist Party might not recognise your value, Londoners do,” he wrote ahead of the 2021 mayoral race.
After Beijing imposed a wide-ranging national security law on Hong Kong in June, the UK offered a route to citizenship for British National Overseas passport holders. The conservative politician, however, said he wanted to go further: “Over the past few years, life in Hong Kong has changed. The Chinese government is attempting to crush the spirit of Hong Kong,” he wrote.
In response to the move in July to welcome more Hongkongers, the Chinese Embassy in London said Britain had “severely violated” its commitments, interfered in China’s internal affairs, violated international law and norms governing diplomatic relations.
Activist Nathan Law, who fled to the UK and is reportedly “wanted” by Hong Kong police, welcomed the news. “For us, it is an absolute tragedy that anyone would have to leave Hong Kong. But we also recognise that some will have no choice. In this situation it is very encouraging to know that we will be made welcome. I hope the current mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will do the same,” he said.
London’s City Hall previously provided resettlement assistance and grants to European citizens in light of the UK’s departure from the European Union.
In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.