In Hong Kong, nine pro-democracy activists, including the leaders of the 'Umbrella Movement' which shut down major traffic routes for 77 days in 2014, have been found guilty of public nuisance offences.
The Government was asked an urgent question by Alistair Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland, as the nine activists await sentencing. They could face up to seven years in jail for their parts in the peaceful protests, which followed the 2014 announcement by China that it would allow direct elections in 2017, but only from a list of candidates pre-approved by Beijing.
A former British colony, control of Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 on the proviso that it would retain "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs". The level of autonomy allowed in practice remains a point of contention between some in Hong Kong and those on the mainland.
Speaking for the Government, Mark Field, the Minister of State said;
“The UK Government is acutely aware of its and our enduring responsibilities to Hong Kong […] we remain absolutely committed to monitoring and ensuring the faithful implementation of [the] joint declaration, and indeed the principle of one country, two systems”
He echoes the concerns raised by the Foreign Secretary that the degree of apolitical autonomy in Hong Kong is being reduced and said, "It would be deeply concerning if this ruling discourages legitimate protest in the future."
Alistair Carmichael thanked the Minister for his statement, and encouraged an equally robust tone in discussion on the subject with China. He said;
“This prosecution and now conviction of nine leaders of the Umbrella Movement is just the latest in a series of egregious human rights abuses by the Government in China.”
Image: Studio Incendo via Flickr
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