Lord Alton: City AM: Hong Kong’s sham elections mark another loss for democracy-loving people
THURSDAY 12 MAY 2022 6:00 AM
Lord Alton of Liverpool is a Crossbench Peer who serves on the House of Lords’ International Relations Select Committee. He is a patron of Hong Kong Watch and vice chair of the All-Party Group on Hong Kong
American poet Maya Angelou said: “When someone shows who they are, believe them the first time”. Millions of Hongkongers are this week asking what sort of chief executive the newly “elected” John Lee will be – warily recalling his brutality as pro-Beijing security chief, violently crushing the city’s pro-democracy movement.
Lee has shown Hongkongers exactly who he is; they can expect more brutality, less freedom, and further pivoting to Beijing. The former police officer and enthusiastic proponent of the repressive National Security Law was “elected” last Sunday as the successor of Carrie Lam. The vote was nothing more than a sham. Lee was the only candidate in a one-horse race, voted in by a committee made up almost entirely of pro-Beijing “patriots”.
We’ve long known what the result of this “election” would be and – unfortunately – we also know what sort of leader Lee will be. His lamentable record speaks for itself. As Secretary for Security from 2017 to 2021, Lee commanded the city’s security and police forces, and his tenure was defined by brutality.
When hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers protested for freedom, democracy and human rights, Lee was the man who sent in the riot police to beat them and was responsible for the city-wide crackdown with thousands of arrests.
The response of Lee and Lam to the growing protest movement was to double down – instituting increasingly aggressive legislation. Lee’s elevation destroys the hopes of all those Hongkongers who still believe in democracy and freedom.
The all-party parliamentary group for Hong Kong, of which I am proud to be vice-chair, along with campaign group “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong”, investigated police brutality there. Our inquiry received more than 1,000 submissions of evidence and interviewed several key witnesses of human rights abuses, including medical professionals, a journalist, humanitarian workers, academics and a former Hong Kong police officer.
The inquiry concluded that Hong Kong has failed to meet the required standard of protection for humanitarian and medical workers, as guaranteed by international law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. This is deeply shameful.
In July, it will be the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong. Legally binding commitments promised “two systems, one country”. Instead, Lam and Lee have been at the forefront of state-induced terror and the systematic destruction of the city’s way of life.
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On Monday, the free world made clear its disdain and contempt for the sham that put Lee in power. The G7 foreign ministers and the high representative of the European Union spelt out their “grave concern” over the choice of the chief executive as part of a “continued assault on political pluralism and fundamental freedoms.”
They are right to have spoken out, but words must be matched by actions. John Lee should already be facing sanctions for his role in the decimation of human rights in Hong Kong.
The British government must make clear that the continuation of the regime’s policies is unacceptable for all of us who believe in freedom and democracy, especially those still in Hong Kong.
One day – however long it takes – Hongkongers will see the triumph of freedom over tyranny. But as long as John Lee stays put, that day looks a little bit further away.