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Magnitsky-style sanctions must be applied immediately to officials and politicians in Hong Kong and China, otherwise we risk failing to deliver on our promises to the people of Hong Kong.
The expulsion of four opposition lawmakers from the Hong Kong Legislative Council earlier this week certainly puts the last nail in the coffin of the city's paralyzed democracy.
As the international community goes through its well-practiced routine to condemn China's latest crackdown, the UK government, unique in its position as a signatory to the Hong Kong transfer agreement, must commit to further action. Admittedly, the government has continued to provide support for BNO passports, suspended the extradition treaty with Hong Kong and extended the arms embargo, but more needs to be done now.
Obviously, what is needed Magnitsky-style sanctions should be applied immediately to officials and politicians in Hong Kong and China. If it fails to do so, Britain runs the risk of not keeping its solemn promises to the people of Hong Kong.
The events of the past week have followed an all too familiar sequence. News reports on the latest violation of international law by the Chinese government and human rights violations. The British government joins the parade of foreign governments issuing forcefully condemned convictions, while deftly pushing back the backseat and calls from the opposition for tougher measures. The days pass, the news agenda continues, we retreat and wait for the next unthinkable atrocity by the Chinese Communist Party.
The truth is, the Chinese leadership has called it the bluff of the free world, including the British government. After all, the UK government has three times declared a violation of the Sino-UK Joint Declaration, the 1997 transfer agreement in which China pledged to guarantee Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and fundamental freedoms. Two of those breaches occurred in the past six months.
Sanctions against the Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for the crackdown are the clearest way to make Beijing think
As I have already said, in response to the imposition of the draconian Hong Kong National Security Act earlier this year, the UK Government rightly announced a tailor-made path to citizenship for holders of passports of UK nationals (overseas). Nevertheless, there remains an urgent need for additional "lifeboat" schemes for younger Hong Kong citizens without such a passport. It was enough to threaten Beijing with retaliation. However, it was not enough to dissuade the Chinese government from continuing its relentless undermining of Hong Kong's freedoms.
Despite all its communist credentials, the only language the Chinese government really understands is that of money. Sanctions against the Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for the crackdown are the clearest way to make Beijing think.
This course of action is far from extreme. The UK government has already used its new Magnitsky-style sanctions legislation to freeze and ban assets from Alexander Lukashenko and other members of the Belarusian government for their human rights violations. The US has sanctioned numerous Hong Kong officials in recent months. Either the scope of the UK's sanctions regime needs to be expanded to merit action against the strangling of democracy in Hong Kong, or the legislation is not worth the paper it is written on.
It is not only Hong Kong, but also Xinjiang, Tibet and other parts of China where the most blatant human rights violations take place. In announcing the UK's new sanctions regime, the Secretary of State pledged an end to impunity for the world's worst human rights violations. But as reports surfaced of widespread forced labor in Tibet and suspected genocide against Uyghur Muslims, the government has yet to issue a single sanction against Chinese officials.
The open question in the House of Commons during Thursday's statement was: who is blocking such a step in the British government?
Xi Jinping and the Chinese leaders are undoubtedly watching with great interest how democratic countries react to the destruction of democracy in Hong Kong. Hong Kong serves as a test case for whether the free world will stand up to China's increasingly aggressive authoritarianism at home and abroad. The UK government can take the lead in this.
After all, it is the UK that has had the strongest historical ties with Hong Kong and a treaty right to stand up for the human rights of Hong Kong citizens. A bold move would now electrify the free world and subsequently the British government could encourage the creation of a contact group of nations committed to concerted action to thwart the terrible intentions of the dictatorial regime in China.
Chinese leader President Xi Jinping looks on and smiles, knowing the west is reluctant to do anything because they are busy doing business with China. If we want to prevent history from happening again, we must give him the strongest signal that we will act this time.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Chingford and Woodford Green.