Lord Patten talks of ongoing UK obligations to HK at Hong Kong Watch event
At a packed event in the House of Commons, Lord Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong, said that the Sino-British Joint Declaration continues to place ‘obligations’ on the UK and China, and that the establishment of Hong Kong Watch was significant as it showed ‘the continuing concern in this country about the situation in Hong Kong’.
Speaking at a reception to mark the twenty-first anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong, Lord Patten said that ‘it was bizarre to hear people saying that the future of Hong Kong is none of our business in Britain’. He added that Hong Kong Watch has a ‘vital role in ensuring that the government and parliament in the United Kingdom are educated about the situation in Hong Kong as they should be.’
During his speech, Lord Patten also hit back at critics who claimed that his recent call for the reform of the Public Ordinance ‘undermined’ the rule of law. He said:
“I am reluctant to take lectures about the rule of law from people who stood idly by while people were abducted on the streets.”
“The reintroduction of the Public Order Ordinance in 1997 and its use is a straightforward contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We picked apart that legislation which is totally unnecessary. It is not criticising the judiciary to say that.”
The Public Order Ordinance was reformed by Lord Patten and then subsequently reintroduced by the Provisional Legislative Council in 1997. It has been repeatedly criticised by the United Nations for breaching the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
He also mentioned that the denial of entry of activist Benedict Rogers into Hong Kong was a “disgraceful breach of the joint declaration and basic law” and that “we deserve answers”.
The event was hosted by Catherine West MP, a Patron of Hong Kong Watch, and was attended by Parliamentarians from both houses, as well as academics and policy makers. Lord Alton of Liverpool, another Patron of Hong Kong Watch, said: “Anyone who loves the city of Hong Kong should want to support Hong Kong Watch, an organisation whose work is vital in keeping us in Parliament informed and on our toes in fulfilling our responsibilities to speak up for Hong Kong”.
The gathering also heard a passionate appeal for universal suffrage for Hong Kong from 20 year-old student activist Cara Li, who began her political campaigning when she was 14, and from Eric Lai, a leading member of Hong Kong’s Civil Human Rights Front.
Benedict Rogers, Chair of Hong Kong Watch, concluded the proceedings with a promise to continue to defend Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy for as long as necessary. “Come with us, work with us, join us in our effort to ensure that the basic freedoms, the rule of law and autonomy which the people of Hong Kong were promised would be protected at the handover 21 years ago are defended. We will redouble our efforts to stop the erosion of those freedoms. We will not stop until our work is no longer necessary – for as long as our voice and our support is needed, we will continue to be there for Hong Kong.”