Yesterday marked the 180th anniversary of modern Hong Kong’s founding, an outward-looking, internationalist, enclave of freedom. A rich 180 years of history, although turbulent at times, enabled Hong Kong to transform itself into one of the world’s most vibrant international cities.
The 180th anniversary is a chance to celebrate Hong Kong’s success – as exemplified by international trade and a rich, diverse culture – but also to reaffirm the values of freedom that so many of us take for granted and which are under threat in Hong Kong.
The Chinese Communist Party continues to repress HongKonger’s core values with force and tyranny. Police brutality, egregious human rights abuses and mass arrests under the new National Security Law are commonplace. China continues the insidious erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms – guaranteed by the internationally-recognised Joint Declaration and Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
To mark the 180th anniversary, parliamentarians sent videos with their best wishes and support – which can be viewed below. They reaffirmed the UK Parliament’s commitment to upholding Hong Kong’s core values of freedom, the rule of law, and justice – values that are as important to Hongkongers as they are to us here in the UK.
Lord Patten of Barnes, the former Governor to Hong Kong, and ten other parliamentarians stood in unity. Lord Patten said “I don’t think you can put Hong Kong in handcuffs indefinitely, you can’t put the idea of freedom and the rule of law in handcuffs. So, I am betting on Hong Kong in the medium and long term and if everybody in the international community supports Hong Kong, Hong Kong’s idea of freedom will survive long after Chinese Communist Leninism has died a death.”
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former Leader of the Conservative Party, said: “I, as a member of parliament here in the United Kingdom, want to send all of you who struggle in your fight for freedom and democracy a message of support, not just from myself, not just from the whole of Parliament, but I think from the whole of the free world.”
The anniversary signified support but also acted as a sobering reminder: the fight for freedom and democracy continues. Hong Kong continues to battle against the darkness surrounding it; those in the UK and globally must do more to support Hong Kong by using the sanctions regime to target Chinese and Hong Kong officials who perpetrate human rights abuses. And ensuring that the BN(O) scheme, launching next week, is fit for purpose and provides the necessary support for HongKongers that come to the UK.