Updated: Sep 20, 2020
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With the grip of Covid-19 apparently loosening on China, the dragon has woken from its slumber and now its sights are firmly reset on the people of Hong Kong. While the rest of the world has been distracted by the pandemic that has swept across the globe. Beijing has used this opportunity to further curb the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong’s citizens with the introduction of controversial new national security laws.
This new legislation would see activities that are considered to endanger Chinese national security banned. Such activities include separatism, subversion, and terrorism. All of which are frequently used in mainland China to silence opposition to the state. Furthermore, this law would also allow Chinese national security agencies to operate within the city. All of which is designed to combat the pro-democracy protests seen last year.
As you would expect the people of Hong Kong were, once again, furious and took to the streets just as they did this time last year. We should be furious too. As it was us, the United Kingdom, that saw the peaceful transition of control over Hong Kong back in 1985. Key to that deal was the guarantee that Hong Kong would maintain a high degree of autonomy and its citizens would maintain the rights and freedoms that they enjoyed under British rule. Beijing has ripped up that agreement in our faces. It is high time that we and our allies, as freedom loving nations, stand up to the Chinese government’s bullying and aggression.
Thankfully, the Foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, headed these calls to help the people of Hong Kong and quickly announced that unless China were to change course the UK would extend a path to UK citizenship for British National (Overseas) passport holders residing in the former colony. I say that this is a great opportunity for the UK to tap into one of the most highly educated workforces in the world whilst simultaneously maintaining our duty to these people.
However, taking a stand against the Chinese may prove easier said than done as our friends down under have found out. When Canberra called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak a livid Chinese government raised tariffs on Australian produce, urged power plants to refuse Aussie coal and encouraged a boycott of other Australian goods. Prime Minister Scott Morrison threw the boomerang and it came right back to hit him in the face.
Australia’s dependency on China for trade – a third of Australia’s trade to be specific – has led to them being held hostage by a communist state that is willing to use any and all means possible to punish countries that do not play ball. This is a situation that the UK does not want yet we cannot turn away from standing up to China. Luckily, high stakes diplomatic manoeuvres are something that British diplomacy is no stranger to, and how we take on this threat will require every trick in the book to pull off.
This pandemic has shown that the Chinese government is no friend of freedom and it is time that all free nations took a strong stance against this fire breathing beast that terrorises its people and its neighbours. This, of course, isn’t the first time the government in Beijing has ‘rocked’ the international boat. We only have to look at the blatant disregard of international borders in the South China Sea, the use of technology to undermine and harass their opponents and the abhorrent treatment of Uighur Muslims to see Beijing’s priorities.
Furthermore, the ongoing tensions along the border with India and the historic frosty relationship with Taiwan demonstrate that this state actor is not afraid to use its military might to wow the audience.
On Wednesday at Prime Minister’s Questions Boris Johnson made it clear that the new laws in Hong Kong were a “clear and serious breach of the Sino British joint declaration” and that his government would press on with plans for BNO passport holders. We can and must do more.
For the time being however it appears that the British government has, albeit quietly for now, realised that the Lion can no longer whimper when faced with this red dragon but growl just as ferociously.