Over 60 British MPs and peers have written to Dominic Raab to demand the return of Hong Kong activists detained in mainland China after attempting to flee to Taiwan by boat.
The parliamentarians warned of a profound chilling effect should Chinese authorities be allowed “to prosecute and imprison Hong Kong activists in the mainland with little outcry or response from the international community”.
In the letter delivered to the foreign secretary on Thursday night, it asked Raab to “call on Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and your counterpart in Beijing to immediately ensure the return of the twelve activists to Hong Kong”.
It also went on to demand “guarantee that they have legal representation of their choosing, contact with their families, and to ensure the young people access to necessary prescribed medication.”
“This is a simple matter of natural justice,” the letter said.
The letter said allowing China to detain and hold Hongkongers without international pushback would give Beijing a signal that it could use the national security law to extradite other activists.
“Once in the mainland, the presumption of guilt and a lengthy prison sentence is all but guaranteed,” it said.
The letter was signed by parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, including Theresa May’s former de facto deputy prime minister Damian Green, former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, and the chair of the international development select committee, Sarah Champion.
Layla Moran, Liberal Democrats foreign policy spokeswoman and signatory to the letter, said the two months’ detention and deprivation of legal assistance and medication was “unacceptable”.
“The foreign secretary must make this a diplomatic priority, and the 12 should be immediately returned home.”
The letter said the UK government should also have “particular concern” for four members of the group with British National Overseas (BNO) passports. China does not recognise BNO status or dual nationals, and considers Hongkongers to be Chinese nationals and not entitled to foreign consular assistance.
Duncan Smith, who is also co-chair for the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said the UK had legal obligations to defend Hong Kong’s people until 2047, under the British Sino Joint Declaration which governed the handover of Hong Kong to China.
“If the UK cannot assist these 12 youths, this commitment isn’t worth the paper upon which it is printed,” he said. “Raising the cases in diplomatic exchanges isn’t enough. We need to go further and offer consular assistance.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool, vice chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Hong Kong, said the group’s decision to flee reflected widespread fear of the implications of the national security law.
The national security law for Hong Kong broadly outlines crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion but includes even benign acts of dissent. (Source: The Guardian)