Lisa Nandy – 2020 Speech on Hong Kong

Below is the text of the speech made by Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 2 June 2020.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for coming to the House to make this statement and for advance sight of it. In particular, I thank him for the sentiment of solidarity that he expressed at the end of his statement.

We are deeply concerned about events in Hong Kong. We share the Government’s opposition to the national security law. We want to see real action to address police brutality and the steady erosion of the joint declaration. We want the people of Hong Kong to know that the world is watching. We also want them to know that the world is prepared to act. Can I press the Foreign Secretary for more clarity on BNO passport holders? We welcome the announcement that visa rights will be extended. He says that they will be able to come to the UK if China continues down this path and implements this legislation. Will he tell us at which stage he envisages our taking action? When will these measures be brought before the House? I also ask him for more details about how this will apply. Will it apply to the 350,000 people who hold valid passports, or to the 2.9 million who are eligible? For this to be meaningful, surely it has to apply to people’s families. Will he confirm whether this is the Government’s intention, and what assessment he has done of the numbers?

The first rule of any sanction against China must surely be that it does not harm the people of Hong Kong. Will he tell us what assessment he has made of the potential loss of millions of highly skilled people from Hong Kong; and what assessment he has done of the USA’s recent announcement, which I understand he supports, that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous? Will he therefore support the withdrawal of trade preferences and economic sanctions? There are implications for China and, of course, implications for the UK, but there are also serious implications for the people of Hong Kong, many of whom he does not appear to be offering safe haven to. What impact does he believe that that will have on them?

We have been asking for concrete steps, and I welcome the fact that the Government are now signalling that they are prepared to take these, but the joint declaration has been repeatedly undermined since 2012. As the former Governor of Hong Kong put it, that has been met with only “tut-tutting” and “embarrassed clearing of the throat” from UK Ministers. Why has the Foreign Secretary not pressed for an independent inquiry into police brutality? Given the serious implications for human rights, does he welcome, as we do, the suggestion by former Foreign Secretaries that an international contact group should be established? He knows that the only long-term solution to this is universal suffrage. We must see pressure from Britain on the Hong Kong authorities to begin the process of democratic reform.

I was astonished that, in his statement, the Foreign Secretary did not address how the UK intends to respond to the threat of countermeasures by China. It is increasingly clear that we need an alliance of democracies to ensure that we can maintain, as he says, a constructive dialogue with China on shared challenges, not least on climate change, while standing up to aggressive behaviour and clear breaches of international law. He referenced the statements by the UK, Australia, Canada and the US, which was welcome, and the additional statements from New Zealand, Japan and the European Union. It is time for an international democratic alliance to come together and speak with one voice. The G7 is now off. The G20 is not meeting. The discussion at the UN Security Council has been blocked by China.

It is time for Britain to be far more proactive. In recent weeks, Australia has shown real leadership on the search for a vaccine for covid-19 and France has led the charge for a global ceasefire. On this of all issues, why is Britain not stepping up and showing the leadership the world needs?

Finally, I am concerned that this exposes some serious, deep contradictions in the Government’s approach to China. For a decade, we have been told that we are in a “golden era” of Sino-British relations, whereas the right hon. Gentleman has said that we cannot go back to “business as usual” with China. What does any of this mean in practice? The Government have finally accepted that there are concerns about the threat the Huawei contract poses to national security and are reportedly working with other countries to explore an alternative, but will he rule out Chinese involvement in any new nuclear projects beyond Hinkley? With a long and deep recession likely, the need for a coherent approach is only becoming more urgent. We do not have a strategy abroad. We do not have a strategy at home. This needs a calm and sensible approach, to maintain a constructive dialogue and build far greater strategic independence; the two are not contradictory but go hand in hand. Now is the moment that Britain must step up, show global leadership and begin to take this seriously.