17 August 2020

The Chinese Communist Party is targeting me – and British democracy

By Chris Whitehouse

The UK needs to wake up to the fact that the Chinese Communist Party is now directly attempting to corrupt British democratic traditions and systems, constrain our journalists, and limit academic freedom of expression.

To give just one example. Along with a number of senior parliamentarians who serve as officers of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong, I recently received, as secretary to the group, an email from a senior journalist on the Chinese Communist Party controlled South China Morning Post. The email alerted recipients that Hong Kong police were briefing that three of last week’s ten arrests of pro-democracy activists were related to their alleged support for the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group, which had published a hard-hitting report on police brutality in Hong Kong – specifically, on breaches by the police of international humanitarian law – and which I wrote about on CapX ten days ago.

The police, we were told, were reacting particularly against the fact the report called on the British Government to impose sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, and her police commissioner; calls that are now illegal under the new draconian National Security Law imposed directly upon Hongkongers by the Chinese Communist Party, with no local democratic or legislative mandate.

These are not events in some far-flung former part of the British Empire which have no resonance here in the United Kingdom today. They have global implications because the National Security Law of Hong Kong (Section 38) applies to any act, by any individual, anywhere in the world regardless of whether they have or ever have had a connection with Hong Kong.

In short, for publishing their report, a group of members of the British House of Commons and House of Lords could find warrants issued for their arrest. As my public affairs agency, The Whitehouse Consultancy, has specifically been cited by the police in their briefings for supporting the work of the group, me and my team could be subjected to warrants for our arrest, trial and incarceration for life, should we ever set foot in Hong Kong or mainland China. This is why the suspension of the British extradition treaty with Hong Kong by Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, was the inevitable, unavoidable, and above all right, response to the impositions of this new law.

The Chinese Ambassador in London recently identified this parliamentary group as a body which “constantly provokes China on Hong Kong issues”; and which he slammed for “vowing to further study the human rights situation in Hong Kong” following the high-profile arrest of Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai. Really? What does he think British parliamentarians are there for?

China voluntarily entered into the Joint Sino-British Declaration on Hong Kong, which is a legally binding international treaty, lodged with the United Nations, and in which China pledges to uphold a high level of autonomy for Hong Kong, along with the rule of law and democracy. These are all principles which throughout 2019 have been abandoned, as initially peaceful protests were met with a disproportionate and violent response from the police. These protesters are now the subject of a politically motivated series of arrests; particularly of those who are alleged to have supported the grassroots, crowdfunded campaign group Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong. As the only other party to that international treaty, Britain has a particular moral, political and historic responsibility to ensure that its principles are upheld.

The All-Party Parliamentary group report also concluded that China’s puppet regime in Hong Kong is in breach of international humanitarian law, which protects those providing humanitarian aid to the injured, since police have been assaulting and arresting aid workers. Police intrusion into what should be private consultations between injured protestors and clinical personnel in hospitals also left patients unable to access treatment that they desperately needed – again in breach of international commitments voluntarily entered into by China.

As you might imagine, the British parliamentarians whom the Chinese are seeking to muzzle will now bark all the louder, as the statement they issued in response to these attempts to silence them makes clear. The right response in politics and in international relations is to stand up to bullies – in the case of China, by speaking out to highlight and condemn their egregious record on human rights, whether on Hong Kong, on the millions of Uighurs held in concentration camps or on the harvesting of human organs from followers of the Falun Gong way of life. Magnitsky style sanctions against key figures in the Chinese Communist Party and its puppets in Hong Kong should be announced in Dominic Raab’s next list, and without undue delay.

And as for Whitehouse, as the secretariat to the group being targeted by China, we, too, are proud to say we Stand with Hong Kong. We back pro-democracy campaigners 100% in their fight for freedom; they are our friends, and they can continue to count upon our support, no matter what reaction that provokes from the Chinese Communist Party and the now disgraced Hong Kong police force, which once boasted the description as “Asia’s finest” only to find that many of its members are today little better than unidentifiable, uniformed thugs.

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Chris Whitehouse leads the public affairs agency, The Whitehouse Consultancy, and is secretary to the Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.