More must be done to help Hongkongers facing political pressure from the Chinese government, Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has said.
Mr Carmichael welcomed announcements that the UK would offer expanded visa rights to British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong – but called on the government to take further steps.
Protests have been taking place in the former colony – which was ruled by Britain until 1997 – over plans to allow extradition to mainland China.
Critics are concerned the plans could expose Hong Kong citizens to unfair trials at the hands of the state.
Speaking in the House yesterday (Tuesday), Mr Carmichael said: “May I particularly welcome the commitment in relation to BNO passport holders?
“The Foreign Secretary has heard me make that plea on many occasions in the past.
“He will be aware, though, that the BNO offer was closed in 1997, so the announcement today does not offer any protection to those born after that date, who are, by definition, the brave young Hongkongers who are out there demonstrating on the streets, and who are most vulnerable and in most need of protection.
“Will he look at what we can do to assist these people?”
Responding the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab MP paid tribute to Mr Carmichael’s “long-standing and principled position on this issue”.
Mr Raab said 300,000 did qualify for the expanded via right – but added that Mr Carmichael made a “reasonable point” about the cut-off date, although that would not apply to dependents.
“We have set out – based on principle, in the right way – the commitment that we are making but, as others have already mentioned, what will be important is that the international community comes together to ensure that there are options for the wider group to which the right hon. gentleman refers,” Mr Raab added.
After the exchange Mr Carmichael said: “I am glad that the government is belatedly coming to the support of BNO holders but more must be done.
“International co-ordination to pressure China is important but we must be prepared to shoulder some responsibility should Beijing press forward with its plans.
“We have a historic obligation to Hong Kong and its people. We must support all of them in their time of need – not just those who were lucky enough to get a BNO passport before 1997.”