John Cushnahan: There is nothing left of democracy and human rights in Hong Kong

China’s continued destruction of human rights and democracy has continued unabated in recent days.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 2:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 4:07 pm
John Cushnahan, left, pictured with Martin Lee, leader and founder of Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Movement, who escapted jail last week, unlike other activists. Also pictured is Chris Patten, then EU External Relations Commissioner and before that the last governor of Hong Kong. Mr Cushnahan is a former Alliance Party leader then Fine Gael MEP, who was European Parliament Rapporteur for Hong Kong from 1997 to 2004 after Hong Kong was handed back to China. The exact date of the picture is unknown but was taken in 2002 or 2003

Leading pro-democracy supporters were given jail or suspended jail sentences by Hong Kong courts.

These included former legislators and leading members of the pro-democracy movement.

Among the nine who were sentenced was 73-year-old Jimmy Lai the media tycoon and owner of Apple Daily, who was sentenced to fourteen months in prison for unauthorised assembly.

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The pro-democracy activist Martin Lee walks after receiving a suspended sentence in Hong Kong last Friday. The court sentenced five pro-democracy advocates, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai, to up to 18 months in prison for organising a 2019 anti-government march, part of protests that triggered a crackdown from Beijing. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

He has yet to face six other charges which carry a possible life sentence under the draconian National Security Law introduced by mainland China last year.

Others have been given twelve-month sentences.

Some of these that have received suspended sentences include Martin Lee QC who is aged 82 and regarded as the founding father of democracy in Hong Kong and leading barrister Margaret Ng.

One of the nine, called ‘Long Hair’, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The former Alliance Party leader and Fine Gael MEP John Cushnahan

There is nothing left of democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.

The much heralded ‘one country, two systems’ no longer exists.

The Irish government is morally obliged to use its position on the UN Security Council along with the UK and US governments to protest against the latest destruction of Hong Kong’s one country, two systems.

In tandem with this, I belive all Irish MEPs should work together to persuade the European Parliament to reject the EU–China Comprehensive Agreement on China.

The wider international community must also act.

Moral condemnations of China’s action alone will not change Chinese policy.

Their current arrogance stems from their rapid emergence as a global economic power en route to being the world’s largest in the next couple of decades.

The only thing that will halt China’s aggression in the South China Sea region is when the international community including EU governments work together to do two things.

l Firstly, to impose political and trade sanctions that threatens to undermine China’s role as a global economic power.

The suggested expansion by Boris Johnson of the G7 to D10 to include Australia, India and South Korea which could happen at that organisations summit in June in Cornwall could provide a vehicle for such actions.

l Secondly, by creating military coalitions such as an expanded “Asian Nato” as suggested by the new United States Asia Tsar, Kurt Campbell.

It could involve EU members of NATO and would provide a counterweight to China.

If the international community fails to act, China’s next target will be Taiwan.

• John Cushnahan is a former Alliance Party leader, and Fine Gael MEP. In the latter role he was European Parliament Rapporteur on Hong Kong: Other articles by him on Hong Kong below

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