Welcoming Hong Kongers to the UK

July 20, 2021 7:27 PM
By Cllr Roger Crouch, representing Twickenham Riverside ward on Richmond Council and a long standing member of CLDs in LibDem Voice

Cllr Roger CrouchThis week, the US State Department issued an advisory note to US companies operating in Hong Kong highlighting risks that emerge from the implementation of the Chinese government's National Security Law. US Secretary of State, Anthony J Blinken, has highlighted the "…persistent and politically motivated campaign against the free press, imprisoned Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, and forced the closure of that publication - a bastion of independent reporting. Beijing has chipped away at Hong Kong's reputation of accountable, transparent governance and respect for individual freedoms, and has broken its promise to leave Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy unchanged for 50 years."

Many Hong Kongers will feel that they are pawns in a looming showdown between China and the United States. Many are deciding that now is the time to emigrate including to the United Kingdom. Conscious that many former citizens of Hong Kong are settling in our community, I tabled a motion at last week's meeting of Richmond Council welcoming Hong Kong citizens to our area. I was gratified the motion was passed unanimously.

I would encourage councillors (Liberal Democrat or otherwise) to look at the numbers of Hong Kongers arriving in their areas and consider bringing similar motions to their local authorities. Here is an edited version of what I had to say:

I would argue that, just as murder on the streets of Minneapolis impacts on us, so does the imposition of Chinese state authoritarianism in Hong Kong. Many residents will have close ties to Hong Kong through family, business interests or pre-1997 postings in the territory. The last governor of Hong Kong is, of course, resident in Barnes. We have unique, historical, and moral duties to the people of Hong Kong.

My wife is British Born Chinese, but her family are originally from Yuen Long, a town in the New Territories. It is a fairly workaday place close to the Chinese border. It is a place I have visited frequently with my family. The metro station is normally a peaceful but bustling place.

In June 2019 that changed. Dozens of men in white shirts carrying sticks, faces obscured by balaclavas, beat groups of commuters taking part in a peaceful protest.

In the two years since, and using the pandemic as cover, Hong Kong's freedoms have been eroded further. The National Security Law imposed one year ago is in clear violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. Free speech and assembly are curtailed, the judiciary undermined, newspapers closed, history rewritten, activists followed and imprisoned. In local elections in 2019, the pro-democracy camp secured a landslide - councillors like you and me who want to represent their communities. Many of these councillors have been unable to take office for failing to promote sufficient 'patriotism, respect and love' for China.

So what relevance is this to us in Richmond? Our borough has a proud history of providing refuge to those fleeing persecution. We welcomed Belgians during the First World War, those fleeing Nazi persecution and more recently Syrian refugees. I strongly welcome the steps taken by the Government to introduce a new visa and route to citizenship for BN(O) passport holders. This has been a cross party effort and I commend the efforts of Alistair Carmichael and Layla Moran in keeping this issue alive. There is still more to be done, in particular, ensuring the post-1997 generation, many of whom are amongst those being persecuted, have access to the scheme.

Some of those leaving Hong Kong have already settled in our local area and others will follow. Achieving for Children (Richmond's school and children's services) figures show that approximately 200 children of Hong Kong families have already enrolled at local schools. By this motion, I would like us all to declare that Hong Kong families will always find a warm welcome in Richmond, a place to settle, to bring up and educate your families, to set up businesses and to contribute to our community. Our local community will support you on this journey and treat you with dignity and respect.