Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong and representatives of the Hong Kong diaspora, Vines, who fled the city last month in fear of persecution, urged the British Government to continue to uphold the principles enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Until recently, Vines hosted The Pulse, a current affairs TV programme on Hong Kong public broadcaster, RTHK, that was axed in July. He was also a regular columnist at Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy newspaper, until it was forced to shut down by authorities earlier this year following a relentless campaign of harassment. Vines enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the city’s media and was the former president of its Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
Beijing introduced the much-reviled national security law in Hong Kong last year in attempt to crush the growing, popular opposition to its creeping authoritarianism. The legislation has since paved the way for a total crackdown on political opponents, regime critics, civil society, and press freedom.
Speaking at the event, Steve Vines said:
“When the National Security Law was imposed by Beijing last year, the time for illusions ended. There could be no mistake in the level of the crackdown. There was barely a moment for pause – to draw breath – because the sheer speed of the crackdown was simply overwhelming. We could hardly keep up – and it continues. The pace has been terrifying.
“And where are we now? The right of assembly has been abolished under the paper-thin pretext of pandemic restrictions. The judiciary has been subverted: in national security cases, there is no longer the right to a trial by jury, and judges are handpicked by the executive – a major erosion in the independence of the judiciary. There have been arrests and detention of practically every significant leader of the opposition. There is a reign of terror, and it’s running through schools, universities, and the entirety of civil society.
“I think it is impossible to underestimate the importance of the UK government’s decision to allows British National (Overseas) holders a path to escape Hong Kong and a route to citizenship. It’s very important to note that though they may pretend otherwise, dictatorships like the CCP care immensely about the spotlight being shone across the world on developments in Hong Kong, and the regime is incredibly sensitive to criticism.
“I hope that Britain will continue to insist on the principles agreed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and continue to abide by its responsibility to not just monitor but uphold the foundations of Hong Kong as enshrined in the international agreement. What it means to the people in Hong Kong is that they haven’t been forgotten or abandoned, and that the values they are fighting for are shared.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool, Vice Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong, added:
“There is a moral duty and responsibility on UK parliamentarians to continue to steadfastly stand with and elevate their voices for Hongkongers. We must always use every effort available to ensure that the democratic and liberal ideals that we cherish, articulated in the Joint Declaration, are upheld and respected. The people of Hong Kong have not been abandoned.
“For all that Steve Vines has done and will no doubt continue to do, we are eternally grateful, and for his tireless advocacy and self-sacrifice. As we would say in Liverpool to all Hongkongers living a life of fear and without liberty: you’ll never walk alone.”
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