Lack of ‘meaningful sanctions’ over Hong Kong sent ‘wrong message’ to China

Lack of ‘meaningful sanctions’ over Hong Kong sent ‘wrong message’ to China

Failure to impose “meaningful sanctions” on China over Hong Kong has led Beijing to believe it has “got away” with breaking its word, an Australian politician has said.

During a visit to London, Australian Senator James Paterson told a think tank event that the UK and the West had not taken strong enough action following the imposition of a restrictive National Security Law in Hong Kong.

Following the imposition of the new law, the UK Government described it as a “clear and serious violation” of the 1984 Joint Declaration on Hong Kong between the UK and China and offered a new visa route for British Nationals (Overseas) and their families.

However, the Government stopped short of imposing sanctions on key figures including Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

Sen Paterson, who chairs the Australian parliament’s intelligence and security committee, said: “The Chinese government would look at that experience and think that we got away with it.”

While acknowledging there had been “reputational harm” for China and the issue had had an “electrifying effect” on the debate in the UK, Sen Paterson said there had been “no meaningful sanctions and no meaningful action”.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, was not sanctioned over the introduction of the restrictive National Security Law (Yui Mok/PA)

(PA Archive)

He said: “If we keep doing that, I think as Georgia and Ukraine and Crimea show, dictators and authoritarians will think that they can keep going.

“It’s actually a dangerous thing for us to do to send them this signal that we don’t care and we’re not going to take action, because one day we will care, as we’ve demonstrated in this current Ukraine crisis, and we could find ourselves very quickly in a conflict that none of us sought or foresaw and that would be a very ugly thing indeed.”

Asked if it was now too late for sanctions over Hong Kong, the senator said it was “never too late”.

Asked in June 2021 whether Carrie Lam would be sanctioned, Foreign Office minister Nigel Adams said: “We do not speculate who may be designated under the UK’s sanctions regime in the future, but sanctions are just one tool in our arsenal.

“The UK has already taken a number of actions in response to developments in Hong Kong. These include introducing a new bespoke immigration path for British Nationals (Overseas) (BNOs), suspending our extradition treaty with Hong Kong indefinitely, and extending our arms embargo on mainland China to Hong Kong.

“We will continue to stand up for the people of Hong Kong as befits our historic commitment to them, to call out the violation of their rights and freedoms.”

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