Britain has a duty to Hong Kong, says Lord Ashdown during Hong Kong visit

Lord Ashdown speaking at the Foreign Correspondents club. Photo: Sarah Graham / FCC

Lord Ashdown speaking at the Foreign Correspondents club. Photo: Sarah Graham / FCC

Lord Ashdown, Hong Kong Watch patron and former leader of the Liberal Democrats, has underlined Britain's duty to Hong Kong.

The Liberal Democrat peer highlighted that the Sino-British Joint Declaration is an enshrined international treaty: “It is up to all to make sure that they preserved that and protect it.”

In conversations with the Hong Kong Free Press, South China Morning Post and during a speech to the Foreign Correspondents Club, Lord Ashdown reiterated that Britain must continue to monitor the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, speaking out if 'one-country, two-systems' is undermined. 

He said, “The British government has a duty here too. Britain sadly is obsessed with Brexit at the moment, but you know this is our engagement. I think it was John Major, the British prime minister, who said to the people of Hong Kong: ‘You’ll never walk alone’.”

“Chris Patten has said Britain risks selling her honour if, in order to get a decent trade deal we’re all desperate to get, Britain forgets her obligations in Hong Kong.”

He continued to say that Chinese government also had a duty to uphold the Sino-British Joint Declaration:

“Repudiating an international treaty, I don’t think it’s in China’s interest. The joint declaration has a really important function to play, not just in Hong Kong,” Ashdown said. “It is valuable to China; I think it is valuable to the wider world as well.”

He went on to remark that rule of law is the 'primary gift which perhaps the British – whose legacy here I’ll have to say is not blameless – have left behind.'

He described Hong Kong Watch's role as a watchdog which will act to speak-out if abuses are made, saying:  

“It’s not just directed at one side of the joint agreement, it’s there to act as a prod for the British Government too. The British Government is now obsessed with Brexit (and) trying to build trade deals – it’s a huge plum for the British to have a trade deal with China.

“We must ensure that Britain fulfils its legal and duty of honour to Hong Kong and we’ll be doing that. It will look at the actions of both sides and it will act as a whistleblower.”