Labour MPs demand China release ‘all political prisoners in Hong Kong’ as Lee Cheuk-Yan faces trial

By James Moules

DOZENS of British Labour MPs and campaigners have voiced their solidarity with Hong Kong labour activist Lee Cheuk-Yan as he faces trial.

Lee, who is the General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, is facing the charge of ‘unauthorised assembly’ along with other democracy activists in Hong Kong in relation to their presence at a pro-democracy demonstration in 2019.

The proposal of a bill in Hong Kong that would have allowed extradition to mainland China sparked mass protests in 2019. While the bill was withdrawn, the protests have continued as part of the wider pro-democracy movement in the region.

In 2020, a National Security Bill was imposed on the territory by Beijing – one which gives mainland authorities greater power to punish the protestors. This move has been condemned by democracy activists as an attack on the freedom and autonomy of Hong Kong.

Ahead of Lee’s trial, which commenced on February 16, 2021, a group of British MPs, peers, trade unionists and activists signed a statement of support and solidarity.

In the statement, they said: “We demand of the Hong Chief Executive and the Chinese government that they release all political prisoners in Hong Kong, grant universal suffrage to the people of Hong Kong and repeal the National Security Law. We call for action against those British companies and individuals that are endorsing, collaborating with the NSL and the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong.”

A total of 39 MPs and peers signed the statement, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti and Labour MPs John McDonnell, Nadia Whittome, Clive Lewis, Richard Burgon and Hilary Benn.

Lee Cheuk-Yan previously spoke at an online rally hosted by the Labour Movement Solidarity with Hong Kong – UK on January 30, 2021.

He said: “In Hong Kong now, the strategy of the Chinese Communist Party sort of opposition cleansing and to get rid of all the civil society and weaken them – to suppress them so that no one is in the position to challenge the Communist Party.”

Speaking at the rally, Labour MP Clive Lewis said: “By critiquing and challenging China’s behaviour towards Hong Kong and fellow trade unionists, we do so as internationalist democratic socialists who aren’t afraid to shine the very same spotlight on Western democracy and its growing failing.

“What we can see from the protests and resistance in Hong Kong is that demanding democracy is a common cause that is shared by so many of us in the labour movement. Having basic freedoms and liberties, not just respected but upheld, is something that is shared by people across the labour movement, across civil society – by the old, the young, by campaigners and by lawmakers.

“And that is why we stand in solidarity with Hong Kong protesters, trade unionists and those who have been arrested and imprisoned.

“Democracy has always ebbed and flowed. People have always had to stand up and come together to defend democratic gains and fight for democratic expansion. But what we see happening in Hong Kong is, in may ways, just one front in an international battle between people and states that have been captured by capital.”

After the Hong Kong handover from Britain to China in 1997, the territory was made a Special Administrative Region – which granted it greater autonomy than mainland provinces.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome told the rally: “You know when we see a police officer beating up a worker, when we see Muslims being locked up in concentration camps and millions of people being denied their basic democratic rights and freedoms – the labour movement needs to know which side we’re on.

“It’s not a People’s Republic if the people don’t have any power over their government and frankly it’s not socialism if, take the example of the Uyghurs, one million people are forced into slave labour in prison camps.

“And I want to say very clearly that opposing tyranny and genocide does not mean endorsing US imperialism and not a single one of us on this panel are advocating for that.”

The full text of the solidarity statement can be found here.

Featured Image: Studio Incendo @Flickr

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