Liberal Democrat spokesperson on foreign affairs, Alistair Carmichael MP, has today backed the UK government in offering a united front in support of Hong Kong, but called for the Foreign Secretary to go further to ensure that no Hongkonger is left behind following China’s imposition of a national security law on the city and the UK’s offer of the right to abode for BNO passport holders.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“The Foreign Secretary’s statement will have been heard not just in this House but in Beijing also, and I hope that in hearing that statement they understand that the analysis that the Foreign Secretary has laid before the house today is not just the analysis of the government but of this House as a whole. When you see reports of young Hongkongers as young as 15 already being victims of this law he must surely understand the importance of making sure that no Hongkonger is left behind in relation to the BNO passport arrangements.
“I share the frustration of the Foreign Secretary that things have reached this point but surely all countries and all institutions must understand that this is a moment where we have to pick a side. Either you can stand with Hong Kong and the Joint Declaration or else you choose to stand with the Chinese Communist Party. In that regard, what will he do to urge HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank to reconsider the decision they took in relation to taking sides?”
Responding, the Foreign Secretary said:
“I certainly welcome the substantive points he made. He talked about the importance of this House, not just the government, speaking with a united voice and I have to say that is exactly what we have today on the key issue at stake and I welcome his contribution to that.
“I also agree with him that it is heart-breaking to see the scenes in Hong Kong just hours after the enactment of this legislation. We are counselling the Hong Kong authorities and Beijing to step back but it is clear that having enacted this legislation that they wish to proceed. We will need to wait to see the exact application of these actions before deciding some of the measures to take next but these are under active consideration including with our international partners.
“I took the point he made about BNOs, the full details will be set before the House by the Home Secretary but we are very clear with our commitment to provide a path to citizenship to all BNO and eligible BNO status holders that we will do the right thing by all of them.
“On HSBC and banks – I have been very clear in relation to HSBC and I will say the same thing to all other banks – the rights and freedoms and our responsibilities in this country to the people of Hong Kong should not be sacrificed on the altar of bankers’ bonuses.”
Speaking afterwards, Mr Carmichael said:
“The United Kingdom is speaking with one voice in support of Hong Kong today. We cannot abandon Hongkongers who are struggling for their freedoms and their rights, many of whom did not have the chance to take a BNO passport during the Handover. Now is the time to live up to our values.”