Exiled pro-democracy activist writes to UK Foreign Secretary requesting further sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese governments

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Honcques Laus (19) was exiled from Hong Kong after becoming aware that he was wanted under China’s National Security Law. Despite being exiled to the United Kingdom, Laus is keen to emphasise that he is still fighting for the civil liberty of Hongkongers. He has now written to Dominic Raab requesting the United Kingdom to apply Magnitsky sanctions to officials within the governments of Hong Kong and China. The new sanctions would be imposed on the likes of Carrie Lam for her involvement in the infringement on the rights of Hongkongers.

Following the recent letters from Nathan Law and 19 parliamentarians to the British Foreign Secretary, Honcques Laus told Eat News that his letter added more voices of Hongkongers and would hopefully facilitate the UK to promptly apply Magnitsky sanctions to the Hong Kong and Chinese governments. Laus believes that, “Magnitsky sanctions could defend the civil liberty of Hongkongers and make the Hong Kong and Chinese officials pay the price of oppressing this civil liberty.”

The letter reads, “the Hong Kong government has blatantly violated civil liberties in many cruel ways, including by Hong Kong police brutality, politically motivated arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment. Since the Chinese government imposed a new draconian China’s National Security Law on Hong Kong, the Hong Kong government has continuously arrested and prosecuted protesters, which amount to political persecution. Six democracy activists – Simon Cheng, Nathan Law, Ray Wong, Wayne Chan, Samuel Chu, and I – are wanted by the Hong Kong government, because of our political opinions. It is clear that the Hong Kong government and the Chinese government have no scruples in repressing human rights in Hong Kong.” Laus wrote that the actions of the Chinese government are a “grave breach” of the Joint Declaration between the country and the United Kingdom, regarding the future of the city-state.

Laus wrote on Facebook, “Today is the 33rd day of being wanted by the Hong Kong government, because of my political opinion. Recently, the Hong Kong government and the Chinese government still have no scruples to oppress civil liberty and persecute Hongkongers with China’s Evil National Security Law, and other cruel means. As a Hongkonger, I cannot ignore these circumstances.”

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The Magnitsky Act, formally known as the Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, is a bipartisan bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2012, intending to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009 and also to grant permanent normal trade relations status to Russia.

Benedict Rogers, a deputy chairman of the Conservative Party’s human rights commission and chair of Hong Kong Watch, told Eat News, “I feel that the more Hongkongers appeal for sanctions to be placed on Carrie Lam and the senior Hong Kong police officers, the better. The US has already introduced such sanctions, and I don’t understand why the UK can’t follow suit. The common denominator between Honcques Laus and Nathan Law is they’ve both been placed on an arrest warrant by the Hong Kong police, and I think their voice carries significant weight. I hope Dominic Raab will listen to their appeals, will see the evidence of Carrie Lam’s consistent, repeated, persistent refusal to support justice, her persistent support of impunity for the Hong Kong police, and persistent complicity with the regime in Beijing’s breaches in international law and agreement. All this combined should lead her and other in the Hong Kong government and police to face sanctions and I hope these such letters will be heard.”

Photo: The Editorial Board/Eat News

In July, the UK announced the launch of the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations, a sanctions regime that will allow the British government to target individuals that violate human rights worldwide. The UK then imposed sanctions on 49 people and organisations behind the death of the Russian lawyer, freezing their UK assets and banning them from entering the country. Speaking in the Commons, Raab said the UK was acting against the “thugs of despots and henchmen of dictators” as well as stopping those trying to launder their “blood-drenched ill-gotten gains.”

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In a blog on the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Senior Research Fellow Emil Dall said, “Individuals may be designated due to their position within a government or membership of a certain group involved in human rights abuses and are therefore deemed accountable as a result of their position. Under such criteria, individuals will need to be removed from the sanctions list once they are no longer in that position. In this case the criteria – and evidence needed – for a designation is clear, however it is of course up to the UK to decide which governments or groups are targeted in the first place.”

The Global Magnitsky sanctions programme represents the implementation of multiple legal authorities who can target people all over the world. Laus is now asking the UK to extend these restrictions over China in response to the unlawful infringement of Hongkongers’ human rights. He has criticised the Chinese government for breaking its promises to the UK, the international community and Hong Kong. The request to apply Magnitsky sanctions supports further requests for the UK to follow the United States’ restrictions list, including sanctions on Tang Ping-keung, Lee ka-chiu, Teresa Cheng and many more. Throughout August, tensions between the US and China were heightened with tougher sanctions being imposed. The US has since announced that senior Chinese diplomats will need to get State Department approval before visiting American university campuses or holding cultural events with more than 50 people. The move follows a weeks-long battle between the powerhouses to place restrictions on ambassadors from each country.

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China issued a fierce rebuke to United Nations experts who said the draconian security law poses a serious risk to the city’s freedoms and breaches international legal obligations. China’s foreign ministry was swift to strike down the allegations, saying the law “punishes a small number and protects the absolute majority.” Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, “Some people disregard the facts and maliciously slander China’s human rights situation… Stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s affairs in any way.”

Honcques Laus told Eat News that he was grateful to the UK parliamentarians and Benedict Rogers, chairman of Hong Kong Watch, for helping to call on the UK government to impose sanctions on the Hong Kong and Chinese officials.

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Emily Lowes is an Eat News correspondent in the UK who has experience writing social, political, and economic features for a range of news outlets. She is an avid communicator, activist, and advocate for the freedom of information.

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Eat News is a Taiwanese digital media, analyzes current events and issues through column articles, videos, visual aid, and exclusive interviews.

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