Activists who petitioned Berlin to impose sanctions on China over Hong Kong’s political crackdown have called for “concrete action” after the German parliament heard their demands on Monday.
Human rights activists Glacier Kwong and David Missal led a petition last September asking Germany to sanction Hong Kong officials over a national security law passed by Beijing last June. The online petition reaches the 50,000 signatures required for a parliamentary hearing within one month.
At Monday’s hearing, Kwong urged Germany to “have a real and strong policy in China” and “implement targeted sanctions against individuals in Hong Kong and China … to hold China accountable and respect Germany’s commitment to democratic values.”
“Drastically, the national security law erodes the pillars of law enforcement and urban democracy,” the activist said in his opening speech. “Hong Kong citizens now live in a pseudo state of police and mass surveillance. Law with vague terms replaces the Basic Law and the Common Law system. “
Kwong also asked German authorities to waive visa requirements for Hong Kong citizens who wish to flee the city, citing pandemic difficulties that prevented them from applying for visas in person.
“Hong Kong was a safe port. But now Hong Kong needs a safe port, “he said, calling for Germany’s commitment to international law and defending human rights.
Foreign governments and human rights groups have condemned a crackdown by Hong Kong authorities on political opposition after 55 democrats were arrested for alleged subversion under a security law earlier this month. Hong Kong officials have repeatedly emphasized that the law is necessary to restore order in the city after months of pro-democracy protests in 2019.
In response, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin referred to actions that have been taken by German authorities since the law was passed, including suspend the extradition treaty with Hong Kong and the extension of visa rights for its citizens.
He also referred to the newly passed European Magnitsky Act, saying Germany would continue to monitor the situation in Hong Kong and seek “swift” consultations with other European countries. However, he did mention the need to reach a unanimous EU decision “It will take time … But work starts now.”
The EU Parliament adopted a regime of global human rights sanctions last month, which allows European countries to freeze assets and impose travel bans on individuals deemed involved in “serious human rights violations.”
‘Real action’ is required
Missal said on Tuesday that the authorities’ response was inadequate.
“There has been no concrete action from Germany or the European Union regarding all human rights violations … be it in mainland China in Xinjiang or in Hong Kong,” he said in a video interview with an activist documentary maker on Twitter.
“What we need now is concrete action and not empty words,” he added.
Beijing and the Hong Kong government have consistently rejected calls for sanctions.
At the Hong Kong 2021 Forum on US-China Relations Tuesday, Lam said the security legislation was justified: “It is every country’s legal right and duty to safeguard its national security. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China with a high degree of autonomy under the principle of “One Country, Two Systems”. In view of the extreme social unrest and violence that swept Hong Kong in 2019, the imposition of the National Security Act by the Central Authority was necessary and rational. “
In June 2020, Beijing pasted the national security law straight to Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – after a year of pro-democracy protests and riots. This is criminalized subversion, secession, foreign interference and terrorist acts, which are broadly defined to include disruptions to public transport and other infrastructure. The act gave the police new, alarming powers Democrats, civil society groups and trading partners, because such laws have been used widely to silence and punish dissidents in China.
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