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The British government should impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on those senior officials in Hong Kong who are responsible for this deep injustice and the arming of law in Hong Kong.
Democracy and freedom are both sacred to the people of Northern Ireland. We understand their importance as well as their value.
We are not the only ones who value these fundamental freedoms, protected by a coherent and well-functioning legal system. Millions of people around the world feel the same and are nowhere more threatened than in Hong Kong. Fundamental freedoms and basic human rights have been exposed to brutal abuse in Hong Kong as the legal structure designed to protect them was armed.
In Hong Kong, the law is under attack on many fronts. Since the National Security Act was imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing in June 2020, the city's once internationally respected and morally robust Basic Law has been replaced by a new oppressive and draconian legal framework. This framework is filled with strategic ambiguities that allow the authorities to arrest anyone considered Beijing's opponent. As a result, hundreds have been arrested and some have been held in unknown locations. Many have not been seen or heard from since then.
For any legal system to be just and fair at its most basic level, it must enable defendants to adequately defend themselves and the prosecution must state their case meaningfully. But in Hong Kong, even this has been compromised. Several lawyers have had their right to practice withdrawn simply because they defended innocent pro-democracy activists.
Respect for the rule of law in Hong Kong is a dying concept
This suspension is a chilling message to lawyers across the city: legal professions must facilitate the legal takeover of Hong Kong by Beijing, or they will be seen as complicit in the pro-democracy movement and face the consequences.
Lawyers defending pro-democracy figures have faced blatant intimidation. As you may rightly assume, attorneys charged with prosecuting such figures and judges who hear their cases have also been intimidated into taking sides with Beijing.
This has happened most infamously in the case of Jimmy Lai, the pro-democracy media mogul who founded the widespread "Apple Daily" newspaper. He has been detained for his pro-democracy activism. Ahead of his hearing, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, held a closed meeting with the city's highest court judge responsible for his conviction. Although the judge claimed Lai's case was not discussed, Carrie Lam's interference is clear. The motive behind this suspiciously timed private gathering couldn't be clearer, and the poor attempt to hide is insulting to the democratic world.
More recently, Ren Quanniu, a lawyer representing several pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, received a court notice on Tuesday revoking his right to exercise the law. Respect for the rule of law in Hong Kong is a dying concept.
Beijing's toxic influence can also be seen in other sectors. Journalists have lost their reporting ability when they have refused to write what the authorities want. Politicians have been deselected when they did not voluntarily accept Hong Kong's political takeover. The educational curriculum has been completely rewritten to omit any mention of democracy or protest in an effort to "protect young minds". against independent thinking.
This takeover stems from the abandonment of the rule of law and is unacceptable. I urge the British government to impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on those high-ranking officials in Hong Kong who are responsible for this deep injustice and the armament of the law in Hong Kong. We have a moral, legal and historic obligation to support Hong Kongers in their darkest hour. We must fulfill this duty.
The law as a concept was established to protect the well-being of society and the universal rights on which we all depend. When the law and such rights are threatened around the world, they will be jordanized around the world. The UK must act now if it is to be on the right side of history.
Ian Paisley is the Democratic Unionist Party Member of Parliament for North Antrim.