Excuses wearing thin on lack of Hong Kong sanctions – Carmichael

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today called on the government to implement Magnitsky-style sanctions on officials responsible for breaches of human rights and democratic freedoms in Hong Kong. During an urgent debate on Hong Kong following the expulsion of pro-democracy lawmakers in the city’s legislature, Mr Carmichael highlighted the need for a robust response.

Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:

“I understand the Minister’s caution [on announcing sanctions]. But in practical terms for the likes of Carrie Lam, the idea that she might be at some stage subject to Magnitsky sanctions is something for which I think we have maybe now lost the element of surprise. [Laughter]

“So, the practical consequences of the government’s position are probably not that significant, but the political consequences of a more robust answer could be immense, especially if we were to pursue this through our membership of the UN Human Rights Council to which we have now been elected for the next two years. What’s the Minister going to do with that very useful tool?”

Responding for the government, Nigel Adams MP said:

“As tempting as it may be, it is absolutely inappropriate and not right for us to speculate on our sanctions regime. We don’t want a situation where the effect of our regime is diminished and speculation could very much do that. We are working very closely and very hard with the UN, as my Rt Hon friend will be aware.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“These excuses are wearing so thin they are practically transparent. The Foreign Office has had months to prepare sanctions against Chinese officials abusing the rule of law in Hong Kong so to talk about “speculation” at this late stage will not cut it.

“There has been only one direction of travel for political freedom in Hong Kong in the past year. If we remain passive as the final dominoes fall then our supposed obligations to Hongkongers are meaningless. The Government must impose Magnitsky sanctions on those responsible now.”

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