Paddy Ashdown calls UK government to reject 'foreign interference' claims

Lord Ashdown, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, today called for the UK government to reject claims that his recent visit to Hong Kong was an act of ‘foreign interference.’


In a question raised in the House of Lords on ‘human rights and autonomy in Hong Kong’, Lord Ashdown, a patron of Hong Kong Watch who recently published a report on human rights in Hong Kong, asked:

'Is the Minister aware that, according to the claims made by the Hong Kong and
Chinese authorities, it is an interference in the domestic affairs of China for a British
parliamentarian to visit Hong Kong to assess progress on the Joint Declaration?
Given that the Joint Declaration is an international treaty lodged in the UN, which places
responsibility on both sides to carry it out, will the Minister take this opportunity
strenuously to reject that view and ensure that both the Hong Kong and Beijing
authorities are duly notified?'

The UK’s Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon,
said that he ‘fully agreed’ with Lord Ashdown’s perspective, and said that:

‘The UK remains committed to strengthening its relationship with China, but not to the
detriment of the Joint Declaration, which remains strong as ever.'

Lord Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong, and crossbench peer Lord Alton, another patron
of Hong Kong Watch were among those who asked follow-up questions. Lord Alton asked
about the proposed introduction of Chinese Mainland law at West Kowloon rail terminus:

‘How does [the government] respond to the Bar Association’s assertion that the
Chinese Government’s decision to enforce mainland law at the new high-speed rail
terminus in Hong Kong is “the most retrograde step to date in the implementation of the
Basic Law and severely undermines public confidence in ‘one country, two systems’
and the rule of law”? That fear is reinforced by the imprisonment of Joshua Wong and
Nathan Law, both of whom I have hosted here …. and whose treatment is yet another
sign that one country, two systems is morphing into one country, one system.’

Lord Ahmad responded by emphasising that all arrangements must be consistent with the Joint-Declaration:

‘It is important that the final arrangements are and remain consistent with the one
country, two systems framework. … We continue to urge both the Chinese and the
Hong Kong special administrative region to ensure that the agreement, which stands
with international recognition, continues to be abided by.’

Lord Patten asked whether the Minister had any advice for those who are concerned that they
might be denied in a similar manner to Benedict Rogers. The Government Minister, Lord
Ahmad said that ‘British citizens should travel to Hong Kong as they do now.’

Lord Ahmad’s affirmations of one-country, two-systems and the Sino-British Joint Declaration
echoed statements made by the Rt Hon Mark Field MP, Minister for State for Asia-Pacific,
during a Westminster Hall Debate on democracy in Hong Kong in the House of Commons on
Tuesday. During the debate, the government committed its ‘absolute and unequivocal’ support
for the Joint Declaration and the rights enshrined within it.

Note to Editors

For the full text of the oral question in the House of Lords, see: 24/debates/77283A0B-A895- 414C-8B2C-

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