UK could ban exporting tear gas to Hong Kong

Suki Mok Photography
Suki Mok Photography

UK could ban exporting tear gas to Hong Kong after 87 canisters used against protesters

Hugo Swire, the Foreign Office Minister responsible for Hong Kong affairs, told MPs at a recent debate regarding Hong Kong that a ban on exporting tear gas there could be a possibility. This is after 87 canisters of it were used by police against protestors at a recent pro-democracy rally in the former British colony.

“Yes, we have previously licensed exports of tear gas to Hong Kong,” Swire said, “but we will certainly take the recent disturbances in Hong Kong into account when these matters are discussed.”

Andrew Smith from the Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “We know now that the government in Hong Kong is prepared to use UK weapons on its own citizens, and that in itself should block them from ever getting any more weapons from the UK.”

The protest, which took place at the end of September, saw tens of thousands of people who were marching for unrestrained democracy in Hong Kong being met with police in riot gear, gas masks and carrying rifles loaded with plastic bullets. This soon escalated into violence and the police resorted to using the tear gas to ward them off. However, some eyewitnesses and those involved in the protest insist it was a peaceful one that was broken by the police’s unprovoked brutality, with many comparing them to how police in Mainland China behave.

Police made dozens of arrests over the period. Offences included forcing entry into government buildings, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct in public places and assaulting police officers.

There were also talks on the economic divide in Hong Kong and how it differs from that of Mainland China’s. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, an MP and Chairman of the Conservative Friends of the Chinese group, believes Hong Kong’s younger generation has been “left behind” by the city’s economic progress, while China’s are more integrated with it as the country’s middle class rises.

“It seems odd that the government of the PRC want more and more poor people on the mainland to participate in the economic growth there, but are not yet permitting that to happen in Hong Kong,” he said.

Swire added that although Britain had a “moral obligation” to Hong Kong to stay committed to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the constitutional principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, he maintained that if universal suffrage was to be implemented, that is for the people of Hong Kong and the governments of Hong Kong and the People’s Republic to decide. This further strengthens the Foreign Office’s stance on the matter, saying that while they support it, the UK should not interfere with the talks or final decision and that they will not criticise or pressure the PRC.

In contrast, Conservative MP Richard Graham, criticised the Foreign Office’s defence of the National People’s Congress standing committee’s plan for universal suffrage, saying “links between so-called foreign forces and protesters were well wide of the mark.”

Of the new generation of Hong Kongers, Graham said: “They are more sure of their Hong Kong identity, less sure of their future prospects and less trustful of government.”

Jackson Ng, Political Advisor in the House of Lords and the Director of the Conservative Friends of the Chinese, speaking exclusively to Nee Hao Magazine said: “Naturally, a lot of us British Chinese are concerned about the situation because of our strong family and economic ties to Hong Kong. We are watching the situation very closely and hope that the issues will be resolved soon between the parties.”

With relations between Britain and China having been tightened and improved upon over recent years with China sending more students to the UK than any other country, predictions that Chinese tourists will spend £1 billion here by 2017 and with exports between both countries on the rise too, many MPs are mindful not to anger the PRC.

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