Lisa Nandy – 2020 Speech on Hong Kong

Below is the text of the speech made by Lisa Nandy, the Labour MP for Wigan, in the House of Commons on 1 July 2020.

The new security law is deeply shocking, and the arrests overnight have stunned the world. This will have a chilling effect on democracy. It fundamentally undermines the commitments made by the Chinese Government to the United Kingdom and those we made in turn to the people of Hong Kong when we signed the joint declaration. I pressed the Foreign Secretary yesterday not to waver in his commitment to the people of Hong Kong, and I am grateful to him for coming to the House today to make this statement, for advance sight of it, and most of all for honouring the promise he made on 2 June. He is right to do so and has our support.

When will the Home Secretary provide details of the scheme for BNO passport holders and dependents, and has the Foreign Secretary made an assessment of likely take-up? Will salary thresholds apply? We are concerned that this does not become a scheme simply for wealthy Hongkongers to abandon the city and leave others behind. Under the national security law, the Government can extract money from those they believe to be involved in criminality or guilty of offences. In some cases, the people of Hong Kong will not be able to take sums of money out of the city and could have their bank accounts frozen, so what recourse to public funds will apply and will he ensure that dependents will be treated as home students for the purpose of tuition fees?

The Foreign Secretary’s commitment to BNO passport holders is welcome, but it does not resolve the problem. I was deeply moved to see the young activists who bravely took to the streets to protest against this law, at considerable personal risk. The majority will not be covered by this scheme and must not abandoned. The loss of many highly skilled workers will be a blow to Hong Kong and to China. That is why we need additional measures. We in this House have been waiting for Magnitsky legislation for two years now. He must give us a date for when that will be introduced before the summer recess, so that targeted sanctions can be applied to those who breach human rights in Hong Kong.

Overnight, pepper spray and water cannon were used against the pro-democracy protesters. It is now time for Britain to lead on an inquiry into police brutality. I welcome the cross-regional statement that our ambassador co-ordinated and place on record my thanks to him for his efforts, but will the Foreign Secretary now lead the charge for the appointment of a UN special rapporteur on Hong Kong? The provisions in the national security law that encourage people to confess and disclose others’ so-called “criminal behaviour” have raised serious concerns about the prospect of torture. We must not turn away.

What conversations has the Foreign Secretary had with Carrie Lam about the provision for the Chief Executive to hand-pick judges? Given the comments by the former Hong Kong Chief Justice Andrew Li that this would fundamentally undermine the independence of the judiciary, what assessment has he made of the continuing role of British judges in the court system? I wrote to the Foreign Secretary some time ago to ask him to address the direct challenge made by British companies such as HSBC and Standard Chartered to the UK’s stance by supporting this law. We cannot allow British businesses to become complicit in undermining the international rules-based order that they themselves rely on. Yesterday the Foreign Secretary spoke up in this place in defence of press freedom. What discussions is he having with UK news agencies to defend their ability to continue to report freely on the situation on the ground, and with non-governmental organisations, which will be deeply concerned that the law applies anywhere in the world?

The Government have taken a step forward today with the announcement of new rights for BNO passport holders and a statement at the United Nations, but this is no substitute for ongoing and sustained international leadership. I urge the Foreign Secretary to bring forward a comprehensive, detailed and serious package of measures with international partners, as I have outlined.

Finally, the Government must now develop a much more strategic approach to their engagement with the Chinese Government. We support the Foreign Secretary’s view that a constructive relationship remains essential, but it is also clear that the UK needs far greater strategic independence in order to speak from, and act from, a position of values. Will he provide an updated assessment of the implications for national security of the involvement of Huawei in the 5G network? Will he make a similar assessment in relation to the planned nuclear projects involving CGN, in particular at Bradwell? Although this announcement is to be welcomed, I remain deeply concerned that his counterparts at the Treasury see Chinese investment as a central plank of the UK’s recovery and that the Government’s approach remains deeply confused. For too long in relation to China, we have had no strategy at home and no strategy abroad. I hope he can give us a commitment today that this marks the start of a very different era.