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Edward McMillan-Scott: Britain’s obligation towards Hong Kong

October 9, 2014 4:00 PM
By Newshound in Lib Dem Voice http://www.libdemvoice.org/liblink-edward-mcmillanscott-britains-obligation-towards-hong-kong-42829.html

Former MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, who until June was a Vice President of the European Parliament with responsibility for human rights, has written about the current situation in Hong Kong. First he sets out the context:

On the one hand, Conservative Eurosceptics cannot wait to escape from the obligations of the post-war European Court of Human Rights (not an EU body and inspired by the UK) while on the other there is a clamour for the people of Hong Kong to enjoy precisely those rights, under an agreement we made with China, but which Beijing is now breaking.

When it became clear last month that Beijing would rig the selection of the chief executive, Hong Kong's premier, to be held in 2017, Patten wrote in the Financial Times: "My comments are not directed principally to Beijing or Hong Kong. What a former governor can more legitimately do is to invite an interrogation of Britain's sense of honour."

The background is that the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 formally agreed, in accordance with the "one country, two systems" principle, that on its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 Hong Kong would become a Special Administrative Region, ensuring that it would keep its freedoms, autonomy and, crucially, the promise of universal suffrage.

The main grievance of the protesters on the streets is China's interpretation of Article 45 of the Basic Law governing Hong Kong, adopted in 1990. It states that "the ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures".

The nature of those democratic procedures is at issue. Indeed, there has been since China's takeover a game of cat-and-mouse played by Beijing about this. In 2007, with the key pro-democracy activists in the Legislative Council - Hong Kong's legitimately-elected parliament - we published a democracy charter in response to Beijing's assertion that the colony's chief executive would not be elected in fully-free elections until 2048!

Legislators Albert Ho, Emily Lau and Martin Lee continue to lead the protests in the streets, with increasing rancour at the failure, as they see it, of the British government to live up to its obligations.

Edward goes on to say that we must ensure that we honour our obligations to Hong Kong:

Over the years I have met hundreds of people who have been tortured in China's jails, all prisoners of conscience. Whatever Beijing's public face, it is a brutal and corrupt regime in reality. I used my position as an MEP to draw attention to this but I do not intend to stay silent now I am no longer in public office.

Of course we must trade with China, but she needs us - and a free-trading, free market, democratic Hong Kong - more than we need her. Above all, we should keep our word in international affairs.