The government should carry out an audit of the UK assets of Chinese and Hong Kong officials linked to human rights violations, a cross-party group of MPs has demanded.
A group of 110 MPs has written to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss calling for the audit after recent research by human rights NGO Hong Kong Watch found nine Hong Kong officials and 12 “patriotic” politicians accused of complicity in human rights violations in the city have property overseas.
This includes five Hong Kong officials and six politicians who own property in the UK.
Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh and Conservatives Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Tom Tugendhat are leading the call and have urged Ms Truss to use the upcoming second anniversary of the introduction of Hong Kong’s National Security Law as an opportunity to consider an audit.
They have said the audit could serve as the basis for a future Hong Kong-specific sanctions list.
Following anti-government protests that took over Hong Kong in 2019, the Chinese government passed the National Security Law in 2020.
The law established four crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign organisations, with any open promotion of Hong Kong’s secession from China also considered a crime.
It has been heavily criticised by other countries, mainly in the West, and prompted nations such as the UK, the US, Canada and Australia to relax immigration laws for Hong Kong migrants fleeing the regime.
In January, MI5 warned a Chinese government agent, Christine Lee, had been “engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), engaging with members here at parliament”.
Ms McDonagh, who is on the Treasury Committee, said: “It is absolutely imperative that anybody accused of human rights violations, including in Hong Kong, is unable to hold assets or property here in the UK.
“We must ask ourselves what it means to be complicit and whether our human rights rhetoric stands up to reality. A full audit of these assets is urgently needed.”
Mr Tugendhat said having a deeper understanding of CCP officials’ hold in the UK is “an important step – this we should start now”.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who with Mr Tugendhat has been banned from China for speaking out against its human rights violations, said Ms Truss should learn from the Western response to the Ukraine war, in which hundreds of Russian politicians and oligarchs have been sanctioned.
Undertaking an audit of Chinese and Hong Kong officials’ UK assets, he said, “would serve as a pathway to the UK finally introducing a Hong Kong specific Magnitsky-style sanctions list against those officials responsible for the ongoing human rights violations in the city”.