Thank you, Mr. Chair and the committee.
It is a privilege to have this opportunity to speak to you today at this critical time for Hong Kong, and I want to thank you for holding this hearing.
Hong Kong has seen many dark days over the past 12 months, and Monday this week, as has already been mentioned, was among the darkest. The arrests not only of Jimmy Lai, but also of Agnes Chow and other activists, and the raid on Apple Daily’s newsroom by 200 police officers, represents yet another brazen assault on Hong Kong’s civil liberties and really the death knell for press freedom in particular.
As has already been so ably outlined by the first witness, the imposition of the draconian national security law by the National People’s Congress on July 1 has essentially destroyed Hong Kong’s autonomy. It marks the end of one country, two systems; it's placed many activists in very grave danger; and it's is a flagrant violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration—and if you didn't already guess from my accent, I'm from the U.K. and am speaking to you from the U.K.—an international treaty lodged at the United Nations. For these reasons and also due to the extraterritorial application of the new security law—which incidentally, it is worth saying, applies to people whether they are Hong Kongers or not, whether they're inside Hong Kong or outside Hong Kong—in effect means that meetings like the one we're holding now could be in violation of Hong Kong's security law. It represents an all-out assault not only on Hong Kong’s freedoms and way of life, but also on the international rules-based order.
The subsequent disqualification of pro-democracy candidates for the Legislative Council’s elections scheduled for September, and then the postponement for a year of those very elections, disenfranchises Hong Kong people and shuts down one of the few remaining avenues they have had for some level of freedom of expression.
In effect, these events signify the total takeover of Hong Kong by the Chinese Communist Party system. As the Hong Kong Bar Association has said, the national security law undermines fundamental rights and liberties, and the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
Among the many human rights violations to highlight, the widespread, consistent, disproportionate and indiscriminate brutality by the Hong Kong Police over the past 12 months in particular requires particular attention.
A recent inquiry conducted by the British Parliament's All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong into violations of human rights and humanitarian principles by the Hong Kong police force found in particular that “Humanitarian aid workers have been subjected to a variety of treatment that fell short of international humanitarian law and principles, international human rights and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Treatment aid workers were subjected to included intimidation, harassments, threats, physical violence, and arrests.”
In its recently published report, the all-party group cited the shrinking safe space for humanitarian aid workers in Hong Kong. It calls, among other steps, for the establishment of an independent mechanism to investigate the situation in Hong Kong, either through the United Nations Human Rights Council or the General Assembly or through a body such as the International Bar Association. It also calls for the imposition of Magnitsky sanctions on those responsible for permitting the excessive police violence in Hong Kong, including, but not limited to, the chief executive Carrie Lam and the police commissioner.
Let me move on to some specific recommendations for Canada, and I do so with all humility. It's not for me to sit here in Britain and tell Canada what it should do, but these are suggestions that you might like to consider perhaps, together with my own country. I really welcome Canada’s decision to suspend the extradition agreement with Hong Kong, but I believe that more could and should be done.
First, I would encourage Canada to work with other like-minded countries to establish an international contact group to coordinate a global response to this crisis. This is an idea that's been put forward by seven former British foreign secretaries. Of course, the early foundations for this have already been laid by the fact that your foreign minister has joined together with his counterparts from the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and the United States on several occasions in statements and this is very welcome. However, I think more could be done to solidify coordination among democratic nations to ensure that the response to this crisis is not simply rhetorical, nor piecemeal, but robust, rapid, unified, and as coordinated as possible.
Second, I urge Canada to impose Magnitsky-targeted sanctions on officials in the Hong Kong government and police force and the Chinese government responsible for human rights violations and this breach of an international treaty. Such sanctions would be extremely helpful because they would be targeted. We don't advocate sanctions against China or Hong Kong or the people of those two places, but on those individual officials directly responsible. I believe that the Chinese regime does not respond to rhetoric or statements. The only language they understand is pressure, and targeted sanctions would send a clear signal that they would not be allowed to get away with what they've done, with impunity.
Third, I would encourage Canada to publicly support calls for the establishment of a UN special envoy and a UN special rapporteur on human rights in Hong Kong. This proposal was advocated by at least 50 current UN special rapporteurs; several former rapporteurs; the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; the last governor of Hong Kong, Lord Patten; and indeed the chairs of the foreign affairs committees of your own Parliament together with the parliaments of Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.. Shining the spotlight on Hong Kong through a monitoring and reporting mechanism at the UN would be very important in ensuring that human rights violations are not perpetrated with impunity.
Finally, I would urge Canada to again work with other countries to coordinate a lifeboat rescue package to ensure that those who do need to escape from Hong Kong are offered sanctuary and an opportunity to seek citizenship in the free world. This should only be a last resort. The objective should be to exert pressure to prevent Hong Kong deteriorating further into a situation where people need to flee, though the reality is that it is already at an extremely dangerous point. Some activists have already fled the city, and more Hong Kongers will do so in the months and years ahead, either because they are in real danger or simply because they see no future in a city that is stripped of its freedoms.
The United Kingdom, as I'm sure you're aware, has made a very generous offer to Hong Kong’s British national overseas passport holders, which is very welcome, but it leaves many of Hong Kong’s young people, especially front-line activists, unprotected, because nobody born after 1997 qualifies. Canada could help address this need in various ways.
I close by raising the question, why should any of this concern Canada?
I would say it should be for three reasons: first, because of your history, and you don’t need me to tell you about that; second, because you are a country that prides itself on the defence of freedom and human rights; and third, because the Sino-British Joint Declaration is not only an agreement between Britain and China, but an international treaty that concerns all of us who believe in the international rules-based system.
I believe the time has come for the free world to act in defence of freedom, democracy, human rights and the international rules-based order, and that action should be as strong, targeted, and united, as possible.
Thank you very much.