Hong Kongers planning to make their voices heard 

Major parties court their vote ahead of next month’s crucial parliamentary elections in the UK

A general election in the United Kingdom will be held on July 4 with thousands of Hong Kongers eligible to vote through the British National Overseas program, or BNO visa. They are expected to make their voices heard.

The initiative was launched in 2021 in response to the China-imposed security law on Hong Kong seven months earlier. Since then, more than 150,000 Hong Kongers have received visas. The policy allows them to build new lives in the UK and gives them the right to vote.

In towns such as Sutton and Wokingham, where many of them live, the influence of Hong Kong society is obvious as the election approaches. Candidates seeking to secure their votes are addressing their concerns and needs.

Lucy Demery, a Conservative Party parliamentary candidate for Wokingham, lived in Hong Kong for 17 years and once joined peaceful protests against the strict rule of the Communist Party of China.

She told Voice of America that she wants to make sure that she is “the biggest, strongest advocate for the Hong Kong community here,” adding:

It’s a priority of mine to make sure that all Hong Kongers in Wokingham feel safe and secure and integrated into the community here … It’s a Conservative government that initiated the BNO settlement scheme, which I’m very proud of.

In Sutton, parliamentary candidates from all parties have met with more than 70 BNO Hong Kongers and journalists. The event was organized by local community groups Sutton Hong Kongers, HK Watch, and Vote for Hong Kong 2024.

The candidates expressed support for integration and providing a safe environment for the Hong Kong people. 

They also took a firm stance on international issues involving China, emphasizing the importance of human rights and democracy. Hersh Thaker, a Labour Party candidate for Carshalton and Wallington, said:

This is going to be one of the most remarkable migration stories in British history when you look back at the number of people that have come over from Hong Kong. But, actually, the contribution that has been made to this country as a result of this has been extraordinary.

Nathan Law’s Hong Kong passport has been revoked. Photo: Public Domain Media

Still, not all Hong Kongers are eager to participate in the political process. Richard Choi, the community’s organizer in Sutton, told VOA:

It’s important for Hong Kongers to feel safe. They are too scared to get involved in politics. They are afraid of speaking out. It’s hard to get feedback from them. 

“Even though their email address, postcode, and data are not required, people still don’t want to get involved. Article 23 [of Hong Kong’s national security law] and the spy incident make it even worse,” Choi said.

Last month, the UK prosecuted three people under the country’s National Security Act of 2023 for allegedly assisting Hong Kong intelligence agencies to conduct foreign interference activities in the country. 

According to the prosecution, Chung Biu Yuen, the executive manager of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London, was the suspected mastermind of the activities.

Article 23 of Hong Kong’s national security law has also been used against the community in the UK. The Hong Kong passports of activists Simon Cheng and Nathan Law, who are in exile here, have been revoked, and their families in Hong Kong have been harassed.

Demery, the Wokingham Conservative Party candidate, said the UK’s strengthened national security law is crucial in protecting the safety of Hong Kong people, adding:

It was also a Conservative government that strengthened our national security laws in the UK, which allows us now to be cracking down on some transnational oppression from Hong Kong and China on our territory.

Bobby Dean, the Liberal Democrats candidate for Carshalton and Wallington, trained democracy activists in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

He expressed concerns about China’s threat to the Hong Kong community in the UK and called on the government to take a tough stance.

Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2019. Photo: Flickr

“In the West, for too long, [we] have been too lenient and too concerned about how bad state actors like Russia and China might react to the language and rhetoric that we use, and so, we really soften that,” he said, adding:

China and Russia are looking at the hard calculation, not the tone of what we say.

During the event, some Hong Kongers expressed their concerns about higher tuition fees for those who have not lived in the UK for three years. One BNO passport holder said:

People misunderstand that Hong Kong people are rich. But many of us cannot afford £50,000 [US$63,000] a year in tuition fees for our children because we are still classified as internationals.

Tom Drummond, the Conservative Party candidate for Sutton and Cheam, said he would help solve the problem of expensive tuition fees, adding:

We need to rebuild trust. We are all standing to make your lives better. I will be your voice in Westminster instead of your voice in Sutton. But I think it’s important to realize that we’re standing, all of us. And whoever’s elected, they’re going into it for the right reasons.

Luke Taylor, the Liberal Democrats candidate for Sutton and Cheam, said:

I think I would give you the reassurance that as Liberal Democrats, we have a history of standing on, as a party, the right side of controversial issues. We are not afraid to be contrary to the established view.

Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.

Lyndon Lee is a producer at Voice of America.

This article is republished courtesy of Voice of America. Read the original article here.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of China Factor.