By Tim McNulty
SOCIALIST organisers in Hong Kong have dismissed the UK’s plans to extent visa rights as being driven by “geopolitics” rather than a genuine concern for human rights.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signalled he will grant nearly three million Hong Kong citizens the right to live and work indefinitely in the UK – with a route to full citizenship – if China imposes a controversial new national security law on the city.
Johnson has described the potential move as one of the biggest changes in the UK’s visa system in history.
Writing in The Times and in the South China Morning Post, he said: “Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life, which China pledged to uphold is under threat.
“If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience, shrug our shoulders and walk away.”
His proposal is significant with around 350,000 Hong Kong residents holding British National overseas passports.
While another two and a half million people will be eligible to apply for these passports, which allow a person to stay in the UK without a visa for up to six months.
But the rules could be changed to extend this period to a year and to allow people to work in the United Kingdom.
The move provoked a strong retort from the leader of Hong Kong, the pro-Chinese Carrie Lam, who said her government will not change its mind on the new security law.
During a press conference on Wednesday Lam accused both the UK and US of adopting “blatant double standards” in their dealing over the issue, and stressed the right of every country to safeguard their own national security.
Domestically, Johnson’s actions have faced little opposition with the Labour party welcoming the government’s announcement and pressing for further pressure on China.
Lisa Nandy MP, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary said: “This is an important first step in fulfilling our longstanding obligation to the people of Hong Kong and reflects the seriousness of the threat posed by China’s approval of new national security legislation earlier today.
“The UK must now go further and ensure that the issue of Hong Kong is on the agenda when world leaders meet at next month’s G7 summit. The events in Hong Kong over recent days represent a concerted effort to erode the Joint Declaration and undermine protected freedoms in Hong Kong.
“It represents a challenge to our values. Now is not the moment for the UK to turn away from our international obligations.”
British foreign policy has not always been so steadily opposed to Beijing.
In 2015 the British Foreign Office told Hong Kongers to accept the electoral system proposed by China’s NPC for Hong Kong, the issue that sparked the momentous 2014 Umbrella Revolution protests.
The then Conservative foreign minister Hugo Swire said “proper democracy” was ruled out in Hong Kong, his remarks were widely reported and of course welcomed by the Chinese state-controlled media.
While former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron agreed, under Beijing’s bullying, not to meet the Dalai Lama in November 2013.
This coincided with the Tory government’s “golden era” of Sino-British relations, dictated by naked cash interests – to lure Chinese capital into the City of London and infrastructure deals in the nuclear and rail sector.
Activists closely aligned with the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong have expressed strong scepticism to Redaction Politics over the true motives behind the UK’s recent measures.
One such group, Chinaworker.info, say they have never put any hope in the UK government, who they claim has only recently “woke up” to the realization that China is ruled by “a brutal totalitarian regime.”
The group which organises in Hong Kong under the name Socialist Action, told Redaction Politics: “We cannot expect these governments to really stand on the side of democracy, which has only ever been won through mass revolutionary struggle, especially by the working class, not by deals among different ruling groups.”
“That the UK and other governments are now suddenly sympathizing with democracy protests in Hong Kong and sharply criticizing the Chinese dictatorship is about geopolitics and the crisis of the global capitalist system, rather than any genuine commitment to democratic or human rights.”
When approached by Redaction, Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said: “I am deeply concerned at China’s proposals for legislation related to national security in Hong Kong.
“If China imposes this law, we will explore options to allow British Nationals Overseas to apply for leave to stay in the UK, including a path to citizenship.
“We will continue to defend the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.”
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