The Home Office must do more to safeguard Hongkongers from agents of China who operate with impunity on Britain’s streets.
In a heartfelt plea, Hong Kong dissidents will tomorrow ask for police forces to undergo more training in order to better understand the threat currently faced by thousands who have taken up the UK’s offer of refuge over the last two years.
More than 150,000 Hong Kongers have already taken advantage of a Government invitation to move to the UK, with that number expected to double by 2030.
And now, hundreds will descend on London for the first UK-Hong Kong Summit, tomorrow.
Leading activists will join with former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patton, MPs and peers to ask the government to “tale a firmer stance” against nefarious Chinese activities taking place within British borders.
“Many of us were forced to leave Hong Kong, and have gratefully taken Britain’s offer of a new home. We left behind much, including pensions rights, but have brought our capital here and want to contribute to local communities across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales,” said Finn Lau, chair of the UK-based Hong Kong Liberty Group.
He said tomorrow’s summit was significant because it was the first opportunity for many Hong Kong community leaders to meet face-to-face. “Our protests in Hong Kong in 2019 were deliberately faceless, and without leaders.”
“But now we must consolidate in finding the best way to counter the influence of China’s Communist Party here in Britain.
This includes Beijing-sponsored threats and physical attacks”, he said.
“I was attacked in West London, just three minutes from home,” said Mr Lau, 26.
“I was punched and kicked so violently that it was classified as a near-death experience.”
“It happened two months after I received a warning from Hong Kong that there was a bounty on my head. But the police closed the case after just three weeks. They didn’t want to get involved.”
Other similar cases have rippled through the diaspora, he said.
“In another case, a Hong Kong student at an English university was giving out leaflets on China’s human rights violations when she was threatened by Chinese students also attending the same university. She complained but was not taken seriously. So she was forced to stop handing out leaflets because she feared for her life. There are so many examples.”
“We want police forces to be better trained to understand what is really going on and take what we are going through more seriously.”
He said agents were being recruited and funded by China’s United Front Work Department, which coordinates actions on foreign soil using proxies to ensure deniability.
Part of the problem is the government’s “muddled” China policy, which talks tough about China’s human rights abuses and lack of democracy while hoping to continue trade, campaigners say.
While Chinese tech such as Huawei 5G, and now Tik-Tok, have been banned on national security grounds, other crucial steps have not been taken.
This includes the promise to close down so-called Confucius Institutes, state-funded organs which ostensibly teach Mandarin and spread Chinese culture but which actually, according to Security Minister Tom Tugendhat “pose a threat to civil liberties in many universities in the United Kingdom”. .
“Despite promises by PM Rishi Sunak to uphold a decision by Liz Truss to close them down, no steps have yet been taken.”
“Downing Street realizes the Golden Age of trade with China is over, but there is still a sense that we can somehow have it both ways – that’s why Whitehall continues to apply the term ‘strategic competitor’ to China, when we are already very clearly in a Cold War,” said Mark Clifford, the American chair of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong.
“We have seen what a failure to deter led to Ukraine, The same is happening with China. With hundreds of political prisoners still languishing in Hong Kong and Chinese jails, how else do you explain the decision to invite Christopher Hui, secretary for the Treasury of Hong Kong to Britain? I can tell you that there is a firm view in Washington DC that Britain is failing to grasp the nettle on China – that there remains real uncertainty in the most senior echelons of the UK Government when it comes to China.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool, founder of Hong Kong Watch, will tomorrow be repeating the calls of 100 Parliamentarians in both Houses for the UK Government to “undertake an audit of the UK assets of Hong Kong and Chinese officials linked to human rights violations.”
Addressing the summit, he is expected to say: “It is shocking to me that despite China’s blatant and comprehensive violations of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the UK has not taken any action to hold Beijing to account or to insist on punitive consequences for Such disregard for an international treaty. There should be targeted sanctions against officials and entities in the governments in Beijing and Hong Kong responsible for dismantling Hong Kong’s freedoms. ,
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are proud to have issued more than 153,700 visas on the British National (Overseas) route to Hongkongers who are making incredible contributions to our economy and local communities.”
“Attempts by foreign governments to coerce, intimidate, harass or harm their critics overseas, undermining democracy and the rule of law, are unacceptable. We are reviewing our approach to transnational repression to help tackle these challenges wherever they originate.”
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