World

HK activists discussing plan to create Parliament-in-exile

They expect hundreds of thousands to move to UK, following citizenship offer

HONG KONG : Hong Kong pro-democracy activists are discussing a plan to create an unofficial Parliament-in-exile to send a message to China that freedom cannot be crushed, campaigner Simon Cheng told Reuters.

Mr Cheng worked for the British government for almost two years until he fled Hong Kong after he said he was beaten and tortured by China's secret police.

"A shadow Parliament can send a very clear signal to Beijing and the Hong Kong authorities that democracy need not be at the mercy of Beijing," he said in London.

"We want to set up non-official civic groups that surely reflect the views of the Hong Kong people."

He said that while the idea was still at an early stage, such a Parliament-in-exile would support the people of Hong Kong and the pro-democracy movement there.

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered millions of Hong Kong residents the path to British citizenship following China's imposition of a new security law for the territory, hundreds of thousands of people would come to Britain, Mr Cheng said.

China's Parliament adopted the law in response to protests last year triggered by fears that Beijing was stifling the city's freedoms and threatening its judicial independence, guaranteed by a "one country, two systems" formula agreed when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing denies the accusation.

The new law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

It will also see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allows extradition to the mainland for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

China warned Britain yesterday it could retaliate with "corresponding measures" for London's decision to extend a broader path to citizenship for the residents of Hong Kong.

The Chinese embassy in London stressed that "all Chinese compatriots residing in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals".

The British plan covers almost three million Hong Kongers who either have a British National Overseas passports or are eligible to apply for one. The embassy said these people were also Chinese nationals.

Over in the US, Presidential contender Joe Biden on Wednesday blamed a "weak" President Donald Trump for China's clampdown in Hong Kong, vowing a tougher stance on human rights if he becomes president.

"It's no wonder Beijing is acting with impunity. Time and again, President Trump has surrendered our values and reassured China's autocrats they have a like-minded partner in the White House." he said.

The Trump administration has taken a series of actions in response to China's moves on Hong Kong, but Mr Trump publicly hesitated last year at signing into law a bill that would authorise sanctions. - REUTERS, AFP

WORLD