THE former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has joined serving bishops and political leaders around the world in a statement condemning China’s introduction of a new national security law in Hong Kong.
Their short statement describes the new law as a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms”.
The model of “one country, two systems” now “hangs by a thread”, it says. “If the international community cannot trust Beijing to keep its word when it comes to Hong Kong, people will be reluctant to take its word on other matters. Sympathetic governments must unite to say that this flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration cannot be tolerated.”
The new law sets out to ban “treason, secession, sedition, and subversion”, but the full details have yet to be published. The announcement of the law brought thousands of protesters back on to the streets of Hong Kong. Hundreds were arrested.
The statement was signed by 787 political, civic, and faith leaders from 38 countries, and was led by the former Governor of Hong Kong Lord Patten, and the former UK Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind. The Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, and the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, are among the signatories, as are Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP and the Revd Jonathan Aitken.
Lord Patten said: “The statement shows growing and widespread international outrage at the decision by the Chinese government to unilaterally impose national security legislation in Hong Kong. The breadth of support, which spans all political parties and four continents, reflects both the severity of the situation and ongoing unified international support for the principle of one-country, two-systems.”
Bishop Declan Lang, who chairs the department of international affairs of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, also this week called on the UK Government to “stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong” using “all available diplomatic means”.
He said: “The UK has a clear legal, moral, and historical duty to safeguard fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong. Failure to do so at this critical time will not only have devastating consequences for more than seven million people living there, but is also likely to have dangerous repercussions for human rights and international law more broadly.”
The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said this week in the House of Commons that the UK would seek to build an “international alliance” to force China to step back from its plan to introduce the new law.
He has also said that the UK would offer a “path to citizenship” to the 300,000 Hong Kong British Nationals Overseas passport-holders if China went ahead with the law. The Prime Minister later suggested in an article in The Times that this could be widened to allow all those eligible for such a passport — a further 2.5 million people — to come to the UK.
“If China continues down this current path, if it enacts this national security law, we will consider what further response we make, working with those international partners and others,” Mr Raab told the Commons.
“It can cross the Rubicon and violate the rights of the people of Hong Kong, or it can step back and understand the widespread concern of the international community.” .