Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael MP, has called on the government to explain its plan for British Nationals Overseas (BNO) passport holders in Hong Kong in light of increasing Chinese interference. Speaking virtually in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael highlighted Chinese statements and actions the undermine the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the treaty between the UK and China which underpins Hong Kong’s constitutional independence.
Mr Carmichael said:
“Beijing’s top political office in Hong Kong recently referred to pro-democracy protesters as being a “political virus” and declared itself as being entitled to interfere in Hong Kong as it sees fit – clear breaches of the Joint Declaration. Can the Minister tell the House, what plan does the Government have to help BNO passport holders should this deterioration of relations continue?”
Responding for the Government, Nigel Adams MP said:
“The Foreign Secretary commented in Parliament on the 26th of September that the status of British Nationals Overseas was a part of the delicate balance in the negotiations that led to the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
“We believe that it would undermine the commitment to the memorandum in connection to the Joint Declaration to change the status regarding BNOs, but of course we keep the situation monitored constantly. I know the Right Honourable Gentleman takes a keen interest in that particular issue.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“Referring to statements made in September suggests that the minister is not engaged with the issues faced by Hongkongers. The situation has changed significantly only in the last seven days, let alone the last seven months.
“The reality is that the Chinese government is actively undermining the constitutional framework that protects Hong Kong’s democracy. The government must set out how it will respond to further infringements of Hongkonger rights and that plan must include both a sanctions regime and support for BNO passport holders.
“My party has introduced a cross-party Bill to support BNOs. The government should take that Bill up and uphold democratic values in this time of crisis.”