Nusrat Ghani, MP for Wealden, intervened during a Commons debate on Damian Green MP's amendment. It would allow Hong Kongers born after 1997 the chance to come to the UK under an extended BN(O) scheme. Due to time constraints, Nusrat was unable to deliver her full speech, which can be read as it would have been delivered below.
SPEECH AS WOULD HAVE BEEN DELIVERED
Mr Speaker, I am proud to be supporting my Right Honourable Friend the Member for Ashford’s Amendment to the Bill today, and I can think of no one more experienced to speak on the matters at hand, given his own time as immigration minister and his longstanding interest in the people of Hong Kong. Fundamentally, the United Kingdom has a moral and historic duty to protect Hong Kongers who now face the wrath of the Chinese Communist Party, following the introduction of the draconian National Security Law last year.
In January, we rolled out our widely praised lifeline to Hong Kongers born before the handover – the BN(O) scheme. It has so far been used by more than 90,000 people as they seek to move to safety here in the UK and away from an encroaching China, which under President Xi Jinping has repeatedly shown total disregard for human life that does not conform to his standards.
Look at Xinjiang, where this Parliament examined evidence and with one voice declared all five markers of an ongoing genocide are currently taking place against the Uyghur people at the hands of President Xi’s CCP – one million Uyghurs moved through prison camps – tortured, beaten, and sterilised – in what the former Foreign Secretary described as painting “a truly harrowing picture.” But I could just as easily point to China’s actions in Tibet, or its crackdown in Inner Mongolia as two other examples of its horrific record on dealing with people it views as sitting outside Xi’s vision for China. This is to say nothing of China’s repeated violation of international rules and norms in the South China Sea and along the Nine Dash Line.
So let us be clear here – we are dealing with a country that does not care about the international community’s criticisms over its human rights record, nor if it pushes and pulls on legally recognised treaties and obligations.
And Beijing is already actively breaking the rules in Hong Kong. The Foreign Secretary’s most recent six-monthly report on Hong Kong found three breaches of the Joint Declaration in 2020 and declared China to be in a state of ongoing non-compliance with the Joint Declaration, a binding treaty registered at the United Nations.
So let’s summarise: there is a clear precedent showing President Xi ignoring the international community’s umming and ahh-ing, applying his own interpretation on pre-agreed, ratified, and internationally-recognised treaties, and then crushing those he views as having a dissenting voice.
This is the reality facing Hong Kongers young and old – and while we have provided for the latter, we are leaving the former out to dry.
Mr Speaker, this amendment would offer a chance for those young people born after 1997 and with at least one parental BN(O) holder to escape the draconian National Security Law and make a new life here in our amazing country. It was these young people who were the backbone of the democratic protests during 2019. And now they are in real danger.
The charity Hong Kong Watch found that 93% of those who have been arrested, charged and tried for involvement in the 2019 pro-democracy protests are under the age of 25. Furthermore, of the 10,000 people who were arrested for participation in protests, around 2000 were primary and secondary school students, with just shy of 20% under the age of 18. We are leaving young Hong Kongers to fend for themselves against an authoritarian power with surveillance and data tracking powers the likes of which the world has never seen before.
The 2019 protests were peaceful – in the words of our own Prime Minister, who at the time was running to lead our party, “The people of Hong Kong are perfectly within their rights to be very sceptical, very anxious about proposals for extradition to the mainland that could be politically motivated, that could be arbitrary and could infringe their human rights - so yes I do support them and I will happily speak up for them and back them every inch of the way.”
And the British people share this view – YouGov polling last year found nearly two-thirds of Brits supported giving British passport-holders in Hong Kong a permanent right to abode in the UK.
So what better way to support Hong Kongers every inch of the way and enact the will of the British people than be closing this loophole and offering them the opportunity to live in our democracy here? The Government has already factored in these young people as dependants, so counter to the argument some are putting forward, this will not create extra red tape or burden. And opening the BN(O) scheme to these young people will stop them applying for asylum instead, reducing the workload of the Home Office and allowing applicants to work and become integrated in British society.
To conclude Mr Speaker, this amendment is not a huge ask – the Government has already factored in these young people, and this offer would not be in violation of the Joint Declaration – not that China appears to respect it anyway. Instead, this is a chance for us to help an incredibly vulnerable group of young people flee persecution at the hands of a genocidal country. And fundamentally, this amendment allows us the opportunity to be on the right side of history.