Welcoming HK BNOs

August 28, 2021 5:32 PM
By Dr Yeow Poon

Bauhina flagRecently, the Chinese Liberal Democrats received a message expressing the following:

"I really appreciate the Liberal Democrats for the solid support given to us Hongkongers!

However, I'm worried about the safety of Hongkongers moving to the UK, especially if supporters of the Chinese Communist Party gain political influence or get invited as a consultant to handle affairs regarding Hong Kong immigrants. There's a real risk that these people will cooperate with the Hong Kong or Chinese government to extend their oppression in and outside Hong Kong. I hope the Liberal Democrats can take some action regarding this and protect the safety of Hong Kongers who're seeking freedom and new lives in the UK."

The above message reflects rising tensions within the British Chinese community as allegations are made that Chinese community organisations cannot be trusted to support holders of Hong Kong BNO passports, as they have either been infiltrated or influenced by the Communist Party of China. In recent weeks, these allegations have spilt over to targeting individuals for views they may or may not have, and for their association with organisations that are deemed to be pro-China by those that are anti-China.

As Liberal Democrats, our policy towards refugees is to protect people forced to flee their homes to escape war and persecution. We believe in a fair migration system that ensures migrants coming to the UK are welcomed for the skills and contribution that they bring. We advocate the building of a diverse and inclusive society where rights and liberties are protected, where people can go about their lives in peace without fear of discrimination regardless of their ethnicity, religion or political beliefs. We also believe in fairness and tolerance, and in holding power to account.

Chinese Liberal Democrats acknowledge the struggle in Hong Kong between those seeking democracy for Hong Kong and those supporting China. We recognise the responsibility of the UK as set out in the Joint Declaration, and the obligation to support those who choose to leave Hong Kong and settle here. We are committed to enabling Hong Kong migrants to build a new peaceful, prosperous life as residents and eventually as citizens in the UK.

However, for a democratic society to function well, there are certain principles that we all need to adhere to. The first is freedom of speech, which means we should all be able to express our beliefs, political and otherwise, without fear of persecution, ridicule or being labelled as this or that. As Voltaire had said, "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it."

The second is fairness and tolerance. There will always be disagreements in a diverse society, and we have to learn to agree to disagree, to co-exist peacefully with each other, as well as put aside our differences to work together for the common good where there are shared concerns.

The third is the rule of law. It is not helpful to community cohesion in the UK to insinuate wrongdoing when the evidence is thin, circumstantial or not properly investigated. There are proper channels to follow. For example, organisations that are registered with the Charity Commission, are not allowed to participate in political matters that lie outside their charitable purpose. Hence, if a Chinese community organisation is deemed to have taken political sides, it should be reported to the Charity Commission for investigation. It is not for us to make allegations in public fora and to act as judge and jury. If we are worried for our safety and have concerns about any illegal activities, we should bring the matter to the Police. If we are not satisfied with the conduct of the UK government or any statutory bodies, there are means of bringing them into account.

In summary, as Chinese Liberal Democrats, it is our hope that new migrants from Hong Kong and the existing Chinese communities in the UK can overcome any suspicion and learn to accept each other. We are aware that there are radical elements on both sides that see each other as mortal enemies and that their struggles will sometimes erupt into the wider community. The British Chinese community is afterall not homogenous. We originated from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China, Malaysia, Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia. Although we have a common Chinese heritage, we may also have diverse range of beliefs, values and ways of life.

Hence some CLD members/supporters may be pro-democracy for Hong Kong, some pro-China, others neutral or ambivalent. Yet, we can agree that we should all help HKers settling in the UK who have chosen (as we have) to make Britain home.