Our late former Leader Paddy Ashdown argued at the time of the Hong Kong handover that without the added right to live in the UK for those holding British National Overseas (BNO) Passports, Beijing could ignore the Joint Declaration.
We have a duty to act and protect those we vowed we would.
In 2020, this is becoming a tragic reality.‘Beijing’s new law will trample over the ‘one country, two systems’ framework, crushing Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The new ‘national security law’ would target protesters, ban activities of “foreign forces”, and tear apart the city’s Basic Law.
The UK has a moral obligation to act.
Back in February, I introduced my Hong Kong Bill. The Bill seeks to reopen the offer of British National Overseas Passports, giving all Hong Kongers the right to live in the UK.
Although my Bill has strong cross party support, the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary would not budge.
This is a naked power-grab by Beijing, running roughshod over the rights of the people of Hong Kong.
It is welcome news therefore that they are now setting out plans to give BNO Passport holders increased visa rights, including the right to stay in the UK for 12 months.
But sadly it is not nearly enough.
The BNO scheme ended in 1997 and is not inherited. That means that, despite the UK Government’s recent shift, there would be a whole generation Hong Kongers, including many pro-democracy activists, who would not benefit. The 12 month limit is also clearly inadequate when there is no assurance that Beijing would change policy towards Hong Kong.
While the government’s announcement is therefore a step in the right direction, Liberal Democrats will continue to push them to do much more.
The government must not only reopen the BNO Passport so that all people of Hong Kong are eligible, they must also ensure it gives citizenship or the right to live in the UK permanently.
The UK cannot turn its back on the people of Hong Kong at this crucial moment. We have a moral and legal duty to do all we can.