Democracy is being ripped out of Hong Kong, what should the UK and the international community do about it? – Sunday’s debate

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This week, POI editors will discuss the protests currently occurring in Hong Kong, focusing on debates of foreign intervention.

The protests in Hong Kong have been taking place in excess of six months, with no signs of stopping. Unrest was triggered by a bill planned by the Chinese government to extradite criminals to mainland China. China’s communist system would put citizens at risk of cruelty and unfair trials. Furthermore, the bill would grant China increased dominance over Hong Kong, posing a risk to its democracy.

Despite the bill being fully withdrawn in September, protests have spilled into violent demonstrations resulting in fatalities and police brutality. On October 1st an 18-year-old was shot in the chest by a live bullet during a clash between police and activists.

Hong Kong was controlled by Britain until 1997 when it was handed back to China, under a “‘one country, two systems’” arrangement. Thus, the outbreak of the violence naturally sparked concern in Britain, with the government facing calls to intervene to protect citizens, such as offering them British citizenship.

The protests have caught the attention of the world, sparking widespread concern. Whilst, the US has denied any direct intervention in the conflict, politicians from all ends of the political spectrum have united in condemnation of the Chinese government and have expressed their concerns for the people of Hong Kong.

The editors take on if the responsibility to intervene lies with nations and supranational organisations, such as the UN, for the protection of citizens rights, and what the best course of action to achieve this is without unnecessarily prolonging violence.

Written by Emer Kelly

No end in sight. China is dead serious about Hong Kong – a Conservative article

After the extradition bill was suspended, Hong Kong continued to protest. When the bill was formally removed and officially dropped from parliamentary procedure, Hong Kong protested. What started out as a protest to stop the extraditing of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China has now turned into Hong Kong’s revolution for democracy. This is all it wants and all that they will accept.

Hong Kong will not rest until its five aims are answered and democracy is implemented in Hong Kong. This will not happen. President of China Xi Jing Ping spoke about the crisis saying that, “anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones.”

There is no chance that China will back down from Hong Kong without boots being put on the ground. Researching this topic this week as been the most depressing of my POI career, as so little has been done by the West. Not only this but there are such limited options that no one can be a winner, let alone the people of Hong Kong. The Chinese government will not engage in talks with the UK government over the issue, making the whole situation additionally complex. So can anything be done? Small acts can, but they in realistic terms do little to no good.

The one clear act so far has come from the United States Congress who have passed, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.” This “would put the former British colony’s special treatment by the United States under tighter scrutiny linked to Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing.”. The other bill makes sure that the USA does not sell munitions such as “tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns.” Though this is a start it does nothing to resolve the core issues facing Hong Kong. This may come across as pessimistic but China will simply not back down.

So what about the UK government. The only news coming out of Westminster other than widespread condemnation of the attacks is that “Foreign Office ministers have for the first time threatened to use new sanctions laws against individuals in Hong Kong found guilty of human rights abuses during the government’s efforts to suppress street protests.” It is right that we prosecute those who commit crimes but this idea will simply anger China. We in their minds will be interfering in Chinese internal affairs and with China flat out refusing to enter talks with the UK, they will not even think about engaging with us if we vote for these measures.

The other idea coming from the UK is the bringing back a “British National Overseas (BNO) passport to Hong Kong citizens.” Approximately 169,000 Hong Kong residents have access to this allowing them to come to the UK for six months’ visa free. This is what a Liberal Democrat government would implement yet there are multiple issues with it. The scheme closed in 1997 meaning that majority of youngsters protesting will be simply left behind while we give them no help. Secondly, China could very easily see this as an act of interference resulting in a worrying response from the second largest superpower.

The issue of Hong Kong has turned me this weak into a pessimist. The idea of handing Hong Kong back over to China was that hopefully, China would adopt more western-like tendencies which would result in a small westernisation. This couldn’t be further from reality. China is not backing down and I do worry that democracy in Hong Kong will be dormant for some time.

Written by Chief Conservative Editor, Jack Kane

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fantastic article, but the wrong conclusion – a Liberal response

The strongest piece that Mr Kane has written for POI, I cannot deny. Although I do not agree with his conclusion, I tip my hat to my conservative adversary. He not only points out the flaw with the Liberal Democrats current policy which I cannot defend from Mr Kane’s fierce article this week, but I will venture enough to say he is defeatist.

I think simply accepting that Hong Kong has no hope of saving is defeatist. It is not to say I don’t see your point of view and I am not claiming Hong Kong can be saved, but is it not worth the attempt? Is our economic relations so important we should throw our values out the window when we face any resistance? As a conservative I would have thought it would be a moment of pride, alas, a moment of duty to stand up for democratic values and protect them?

I fear Mr Kane, although this is an article that is one of the best you have ever written, has come to a disappointing conclusion. I don’t want to end on such a negative tone however. Therefore, I want to concede that your criticisms of the Liberals Democratic’s current plans is extremely well thought out and I praise you for noticing this flaw.

We cannot condone human rights abuses – a Labour response

Mr Kane’s pessimism is almost infectious – his article seems to conclude that nothing can be done to aid the situation in Hong Kong. He rejects sanctions, he rejects BNO passports… yet he doesn’t provide any course of action.

Whilst I wholeheartedly believe that the United Kingdom does not have the right to militarily intervene in other nations, especially given our track record, I do believe that we have an obligation to react in other, non-violent ways.

As I mentioned in my article, economic sanctions could have a strong impact on the situation, given the proximity of China and the UK. Our moral obligation to ensure human rights aren’t abused surely comes above maintaining a trade deal.

I fully sympathise with Mr Kane’s disillusionment, however, there are a few actions that the UK could take to condemn the anti-democratic suppression of protesters in Hong Kong. We cannot appear to condone this.

Time to live up to what we preach -a Liberal (World Order) article

When assessing any situation where foreign intervention is required, there are always two ways you can look at a situation – theoretically and contextually. As you can tell by that first sentence, it is clear to tell that I am a politics student, so I will always have that theoretical thought guiding me. Do not fear, I will not bore you with hours of politics lectures poured into a 500 word article about Ikenberry’s Liberal World Order.

All that you need to know is this one thing. As democratic countries, we intervene in foreign countries to make the world a better place, sometimes for the right and wrong reasons. The Middle East perfectly shows the many options at Nato’s and the UN’s disposal when countries step out of line. In Syria, we offered military support to the ‘Kurdish forces who so heroically defended the Syrian city of Kobane from Isis’. Obama put sanctions on Iran, which led the iconic Iran Nuclear deal. Finally, the invasion of Iraq shows the extreme of foreign intervention.

All these examples have mixed results, and I know that. The one that had the best results, sanctions. In a world which is becoming ever reliant on economic success, sanctions prove the best form of intervention. This is not to take away a countries sovereignty, but is to protect a repressed populace.

Flip to Hong Kong, and this is what we see, where ‘police in Hong Kong are brutally repressing democracy’. It is a noble protest by the people of Hong Kong. It hasn’t remained perfect, and has spilled over into violence which the Chinese government has used for propaganda. Despite their efforts, most expect that ‘defeat is inevitable for Hong Kong’.

Like most Liberals, I believe we can’t let this happen. It is time to roll the dice. The UN need to show that no matter the size of your country, liberal values need to be upheld by a nation. China are starting to step out of the few rules we hope a country does like looking after its citizens and using the pen not the sword for foreign engagement. This is what I call for! We must help the citizens of Hong Kong. It is time for us to show all these words we have said mean something.

We must start by acting as the impartial judge, and offer a dialogue between China and Hong Kong. This was attempted in September, but poorly. We need to offer this to both sides, and if China refuse, the UN must join together to put sanctions on China, and the country that relies so much on exporting, will fold to UN pressure and it’s companies and be brought to the table to hopefully see a peaceful resolution.

Written by Editor in Chief, Chief Liberal Editor, Max Anderson

POINT OF INFORMATION

The Sino-British economic relationship needs to end if human rights abuses persist – a Labour response

Amongst confusion and complexity, Mr Anderson has managed to render the Hong Kong situation more simple, for which I applaud him. It is a question of protecting democracy and human rights, versus surrendering to tyranny. As Mr Anderson has argued, it is the obligation of nations to uphold international law regarding human rights, and I fully agree that sanctions are the way to do this. As highlighted in the above article, they are an effective means of applying pressure without directly intervening in a nation’s politics.

I do find myself in disagreement, however, when Mr Anderson praises some forms of military intervention. It is my opinion that very often this intervention is deeply destabilising for a region, and also reasserts an outdated and unacceptable ‘imperial’ relationship between East and West.

Clearly Mr Anderson understands that military action in Hong Kong would be totally ineffective, for which I am glad. Economic pressure is something we have the power to apply, so let’s use the threat of sanctions as a bid to save democracy in Hong Kong.

Do not undermine China Mr Anderson – a Conservative response

It is vital that we stand up for liberal values and it is vital the democracy is spread across the globe and this applies to Hong Kong and I understand this from Mr Anderson’s article. Yet, I do believe that Mr Anderson, like Miss Jewell is making out that the answers are far easier to attain.

 The idea of the UN applying sanctions against the second largest power is unlikely and if they did we could see a nasty reaction from this superpower. It would not be too far fetched to see a situation similar to the cold war erupting due to increased tensions between the liberal west and China’s authoritarian east.

What I do also find interesting about Mr Anderson’s article is that he fails to mention what many Liberal Democrats want to do and that is to bring back the BNO passport. Maybe Mr Anderson sides with the conservatives and understands the true dangerous of re-introducing this passport. Undermining China to this extent is a bad idea and Mr Anderson hopefully has understood this threat.

We can’t put our economic interests above democracy – a Labour article

Every day we see the Hong Kong situation escalating, with pro democracy protesters facing violence perpetrated by the police, and by gangs. It is deeply worrying to see the inaction of the British government regarding Hong Kong, a place whose history is deeply linked to the United Kingdom. 

Everyone can see what is happening; democracy is being threatened, human rights are being undermined, and violence is worsening. In August the UN Human Rights Office called for an inquiry into the Hong Kong police force following ‘credible evidence of police employing weapons in ways that are prohibited by international norms and standards, “creating a considerable risk of death or serious injury.”’ 

The United Kingdom needs to be clear on this issue; human rights abuses are unacceptable, especially when carried out by governments or state forces, such as the police. Threatening – and eventually carrying out – sanctions against China is a way in which the United Kingdom can apply pressure on the Nation to cease the violence. It is appalling to think that the UK is putting a post-Brexit economic relationship above international moral and legal obligations, allowing China to undermine international law, for the sake of a trade deal. We need to be clear, the United Kingdom does not support oppressive regimes. 

Hong Kong’s autonomy was established by the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which means that the United Kingdom does have a particularly personal link with Hong Kong. One means of aiding the situation would be to grant full citizenship rights to those with BNO passports, as well as reintroducing these passports to younger Hong Kongers. Surely this is one way of alleviating the situation, as well as repaying the colonial debt we owe to ex-colonies.

Violent suppression of protests shows clear disregard for democracy and Human Rights. As a democratic nation, the UK should step up and show that we do not tolerate such actions.

Written by Chief Labour Editor, Isabella Jewell

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If only it was so simple – a Conservative response

I agree with Miss Jewell on her overall analysis of the situation in Hong Kong. We are watching millions of people fighting for their right to democracy and universal suffrage and we must help them within reason. We must listen to the inquiry created by the UN and must act accordingly.

However, the situation in Hong Kong is outrageously complex and I do feel Miss Jewell simplifies it too easily. The USA has taken minute steps in dealing with the crisis by introducing two legislative bills stopping the sale on gas masks and tear gas to Hong Kong. Yet this action is resulting in China acting aggressively towards them and the potential trade deal between the two countries could be in jeopardy. China is being riled by the smallest gestures and we must tread ever so carefully.

 Finally, Miss Jewell brings up the idea of the BNO passport which allows certain Hong Kongers to come to the UK for six months’ immigration and visa free. As good as this sounds the vast majority of protestors are not able to get onto this scheme as it is closed and furthermore, actions like this could easily provoke a violently harsh response by China. I feel Miss Jewell forgets just how dangerous China is over Hong Kong.

Perhaps another step is needed before sanctions? – a Liberal response

Miss Jewell’s assessment of the situation in Hong Kong is spot on. We are seeing China rip out the democratic values that Hong Kong holds so dear and she knows we cannot just let this happen. She has noticed that action is needed by the UK and notes that the US have already taken small steps to making changes, but this is not good enough.

However, I would caution Miss Jewell to not go full on sanctions at the get go. We are, although sometimes are leaders may not show it, in a time of reason. The pen is mightier than the sword and we must remember this.

I agree with using sanctions as an ultimatum when words fail first. We must offer a safe platform for negotiation, and if that then fails, we can then progress in the means you have suggested. This is not to criticise you Miss Jewell as your article, as always, is very strong. I just find however, you have missed a step.

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