23 October 2018
Britain has a duty to ensure that China honors its commitments on Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms, Paddy Ashdown said on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
Britain has a duty to ensure that China honors its commitments on Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms, Paddy Ashdown said on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Britain can’t forget HK duty when chasing China deals: Ashdown

Britain must uphold its duty on Hong Kong in terms of ensuring that China sticks to its commitments as laid down in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, a visiting UK politician said in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

In a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Lord Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the UK’s Liberal Democrats, said Britain shouldn’t forget its obligations toward Hong Kong when the former pursues post-Brexit trade deals with Beijing.

London must do all it can to make sure that Hong Kong people’s human rights and freedoms are protected as agreed to under the Sino-British pact prior to Hong Kong’s handover, Ashdown said.

“Britain does need to understand that it has a very special duty to Hong Kong and it needs to fulfill that duty. We have a legal duty. We have a moral duty,” he said. “I think it was John Major, the British prime minister, who said to the people of Hong Kong: ‘You”ll never walk alone’.”

“This is not a promise that can be lightly laid aside because it proves inconvenient to a British government obsessed with finding trade deals because it wishes to be outside Europe. As [former Hong Kong governor] Chris Patten has said, Britain risks selling its honor here,” Ashdown said, according to RTHK.

Hong Kong’s interests must be “non-negotiable” when London enters talks with Beijing on post-Brexit trade deals, the UK House of Lords member said.

The Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 is an enshrined international treaty, and it must be upheld by all parties, he said.

Ashdown, who was in Hong Kong on a two-day fact-finding trip, said the “One Country, Two Systems” model is valuable to China as well, and that he hopes Beijing will be a good world citizen that adheres to the law, and that it wants to be seen as doing so.

While Hong Kong still enjoys an independent judiciary, some of Beijing’s actions – such as the alleged kidnap of Causeway Bay bookseller Lee Bo – are cause for concern, Ashdown said.

The core of a democratic culture is the rule of law, he said.

“I’ve always believed that is the primary gift which perhaps the British – whose legacy here I’ll have to say is not blameless – have left behind.”

After arriving in Hong Kong, Ashdown met with the Legislative Council President Andrew Leung on Monday.

During the meeting, they discussed various issues, including the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for a cross-border rail service, the disqualification of opposition lawmakers, national security law and the democracy movement, according to reports.

“We discussed what the [Legco] president would call filibustering – I reminded the president that the use of time is the opposition’s only weapon in a democracy,” Apple Daily quoted Ashdown as saying.

The British politician also questioned the prosecution of student demonstrators.

“Of course it is the case that those who break the law should be judged. But… whether it is wise for the full might and majesty of a global superpower to come down on three young enthusiastic student demonstrators — one of whom is a directly elected legislator — who may have overstepped the limits is I think, a different matter,” he said.

The comments were made in reference to the prosecution of prominent student leaders Nathan Law, Joshua Wong and Alex Chow over a protest that sparked the 2014 Occupy Movement.

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