Bishop says UK must ‘safeguard fundamental freedoms’ in Hong Kong

Bishop says UK must ‘safeguard fundamental freedoms’ in Hong Kong

Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton. MAZUR/catholicchurch.org.uk

By Catholic News Agency

June 4, 2020

ENGLAND— A bishop has urged the U.K. Government to defend “fundamental freedoms” in Hong Kong after the Chinese parliament approved a controversial security law for the city.

According to a June 1 press release, Bishop Declan Lang challenged the U.K. to fulfill its responsibilities to Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which led to the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule.

In a letter to the U.K.’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, Bishop Lang said: “Like so many others in the Catholic community I am deeply concerned by the continuing erosion of autonomy, suppression of political freedoms, and violent response to peaceful protests taking place in breach of this treaty.”

“The U.K. 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.”

Lang, who is chairman of the Department of International Affairs of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said the U.K. should stand in solidarity with Hong Kong’s citizens, “using all available diplomatic means to protect them from the serious violations of their human dignity that we are now witnessing.”

The bishop’s comments echoed those of Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former Bishop of Hong Kong, who told CNA last week: “The international community should feel the moral duty to help this city where we live according to international values, also for their own interests.”

Lang’s intervention came as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if Beijing imposed the new security law he would offer the nearly three million Hong Kong citizens eligible for a British national overseas passport the right to live and work in Britain.

In an article in the Times of London June 3, Johnson said the 350,000 residents who already hold British national overseas passports, as well as around 2.5 million who are entitled to apply for them, could be given 12-month renewable visas.

“If China imposes its national security law, the British government will change its immigration rules and allow any holder of these passports from Hong Kong to come to the U.K. for a renewable period of 12 months and be given further immigration rights including the right to work which would place them on the route to citizenship,” he wrote.

Benedict Rogers, co-founder and chair of Hong Kong Watch, which monitors the rule of law in the city, told CNA: “I warmly welcome Bishop Declan’s statement, which is a profoundly important declaration of solidarity with Hong Kong at this critical time.”

Rogers, a vocal critic of China’s human rights record who was denied entry to Hong Kong in 2017, added: “Hong Kong’s freedoms, including religious freedom, have never been more in danger and it is vital that everyone who values freedom and human dignity speaks up for Hong Kong now.”