Closed petition Urge Hong Kong to release all political prisoners and safeguard human rights

10 December is International Human Rights Day, but we believe Hong Kong is failing to meet its human rights obligations. The UK Government should use diplomatic channels to urge Hong Kong to release all political prisoners, and better safeguard the human rights of Hong Kong citizens.

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Many Hongkongers in the UK are grateful for the British’s warm welcome, but can't neglect those in HK who still suffer under the Hong Kong regime, especially those who are fighting to defend human rights.

We ask the UK Government to urge the HK Government to release all political prisoners and improve safeguards for the human rights of Hong Kong citizens.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 19 January 2022

As a co-signatory to the Joint Declaration, we will continue to stand up for the people of Hong Kong, to call out the violation of their freedoms, and to hold China to their international obligations.

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The UK government remains deeply concerned about the situation in Hong Kong. Actions by the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities – including the imposition of the National Security Law, the arrests of politicians, activists and journalists, the overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral processes and the disqualification of election candidates – are intended to stifle dissent and suppress the expression of alternative political views in Hong Kong.

Following the imposition of the 2020 National Security Law, mainland Chinese and Hong Kong authorities have used it and related institutions to curtail space for the free expression of alternative views and to weaken checks and balances on executive power. Many members of the pro-democracy political opposition are now in pre-trial detention facing charges. We have also seen civil society come under attack, with arrests of members of student groups under the National Security Law. Pressure from pro-Beijing media on trade unions and other civil society groups has led many to disband, while individuals have felt pressure to self-censor.

Rights and freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of press and assembly, are fundamental to Hong Kong’s way of life, protected in both the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. As a signatory to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, China has a legal obligation to uphold Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, and the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, for at least 50 years from 1997.

The UK has called three breaches of the Joint Declaration in the past two years. The first was the imposition of the NSL on Hong Kong on 30 June 2020. The second was in November 2020 with the imposition by China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee of rules to disqualify people from standing for election to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. The third was China’s National People’s Congress announcement in March 2021 of sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system. Reflecting the size and scale of these developments, on 13 March 2021 the UK declared China to be in a state of ongoing non-compliance with the Joint Declaration.

In response to the National Security Law, the UK took three major policy actions. We suspended the UK-Hong Kong extradition treaty immediately and indefinitely and extended to Hong Kong of the arms embargo applied to mainland China since 1989, as updated in 1998. We also announced a bespoke immigration route for British Nationals (Overseas) and their dependants, which launched on 31 January 2021.

We have also ensured, alongside international partners, that international attention remains focused on events in Hong Kong. On 20 December 2021, we issued a statement with international partners reiterating that China must act in accordance with the Joint Declaration and its other legal obligations and respect fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. We called on the authorities to restore confidence in Hong Kong’s political institutions and end the unwarranted oppression of those who promote democratic values and the defence of rights and freedoms.

We also used our 2021 G7 Presidency to highlight international concerns on Hong Kong, including through the Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communique, which called on China to respect those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Joint Declaration.

We continue to raise our concerns directly with the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese governments. UK officials have attended a number of trials in coordination with our international partners, and they will continue to do so. The Foreign Secretary is in regular contact with her international counterparts as we work together, and within international institutions, to call on China to live up to its obligations and responsibilities.

Hong Kong’s prosperity and way of life rely on the respect for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. The UK will not look the other way on Hong Kong and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people.

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office