Bishop urges UK government to show solidarity with people of Hong Kong

(Photo: Reuters)

A senior Catholic official is calling on the UK Government to stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong amid concerns over Beijing's proposed national security law.

Bishop Declan Lang, who chairs the Catholic Bishops' Conference Department of International Affairs, made the call in a letter to the Foreign Secretary in which he said the UK Government must fulfil its responsibilities under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. 

He urged the UK Government to use "all available diplomatic means" to protect the people of Hong Kong "from the serious violations of their human dignity that we are now witnessing".

"Like so many others in the Catholic community, I am deeply concerned by the continuing erosion of autonomy, suppression of political freedoms, and violent response to peaceful protests taking place in breach of this treaty," he said.

"The UK has a clear legal, moral and historical duty to safeguard fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong.

"Failure to do so at this critical time will not only have devastating consequences for more than seven million people living there but is also likely to have dangerous repercussions for human rights and international law more broadly."

There has been international outrage over the law, which if enacted will make it illegal for Hong Kongers to undermine Beijing's authority. 

On Monday, seven former foreign secretaries - Jeremy Hunt, David Miliband, Jack Straw, William Hague, Malcolm Rifkind, David Owen and Margaret Beckett - wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson decrying China's "flagrant breach" of the Sino-British agreement and urging him to set up an international alliance to put pressure on the country. 

It follows a statement signed by hundreds of leaders, dignitaries and religious leaders from around the world condemning Beijing interference in Hong Kong.

The letter is the initiative of former Hong Kong Governor Lord Patten and former UK Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, with Christian signatories including former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, and the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth.

The letter calls the security legislation a "comprehensive assault on the city's autonomy, rule of law, and fundamental freedoms".

"The integrity of one-country, two-systems hangs by a thread," they write. 

"It is the genuine grievances of ordinary Hong Kongers that are driving protests. Draconian laws will only escalate the situation further, jeopardising Hong Kong's future as an open Chinese international city.

"If the international community cannot trust Beijing to keep its word when it comes to Hong Kong, people will be reluctant to take its word on other matters.

"Sympathetic governments must unite to say that this flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration cannot be tolerated."