By James Moules
LABOUR figures in the UK have voiced their solidarity with Hong Kong democracy activists handed jail sentences last week.
Activists including trade unionist Lee Cheuk-Yan and billionaire Jimmy Lai were among those sentenced to jail for unauthorised assembly charges in relation to the ongoing Hong Kong protests. Lee and Lai each received 14 months, while Leung Kwok-hung also received 18 months.
These sentences have widely been characterised as a major kick in the teeth the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and a sign that Beijing is tightening its grip on the region.
Numerous political figures in the UK condemned the sentencing, including Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who tweeted: “The Hong Kong authorities’ decision to target leading pro-democracy figures for prosecution must stop.”
Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “All those who care about freedom and democracy must cry out in protest at this appalling assault on human rights.
“Trade unionists we have campaigned with over the years against unscrupulous employers are now being pursued by the state for exercising basic rights of freedom of associations, assembly and speech.
“These brutal sentences are an affront to all that we believe in. I stand in solidarity with Lee and his fellow democracy protestors.”
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy also tweeted: “Standing with the people Hong Kong demands concrete action. British judges should no longer participate in a system that is this badly compromised.”
The protests in Hong Kong were sparked in 2019 by a proposed bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China. Pro-democracy protests continued in spite of the bill’s withdrawal, and in 2020 a National Security Law was introduced that gave Beijing greater powers to punish the protestors.
Labour MP Nadia Whittome said: “No socialist can look aside as a government demolishes the democratic liberties of its people, still less when the liberties attacked are the rights of protest and free speech.
“All our democratic liberties were won through protest. The right to vote, the right to strike, the right to challenge the inequalities of capitalism – all won through protest.
“In the UK as in many parts of the world these rights are under threat. But especially in Hong Kong where our comrades, such as Lee Cheuk Yan of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, have been given long prison sentences today.
“I stand with Lee, Leung Kwok Hung and the other seven sentenced in Hong Kong today for having the courage to protest about the demolition of democratic liberties.
“We must all speak out louder in mutual solidarity. In every country, against any government, our democratic rights must be defended. We must fight together. We must win together – freedom for all political prisoners and freedom for Hong Kong.”
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government have insisted arrests have nothing to do with “the political stance, background or thought of the person or people concerned.”
Featured Image: Studio Incendo @Flickr
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