30 Oct 2020

Labour and National MPs urge Jacinda Ardern to adopt Hong Kong lifeboat scheme

6:24 am on 30 October 2020

MPs from both National and Labour are urging the government to adopt a lifeboat scheme for young Hongkongers who face political persecution.

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Labour MP Louisa Wall. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Labour's Louisa Wall and National's Simon O'Connor, who both represent New Zealand in the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) have written to the prime minister in support of appeals made to her by pro-democracy activist Nathan Law

Law wants a lifeboat scheme for vulnerable young Hongkongers who face political persecution and arbitrary arrest if they stay in the city.

"Under the National Security Law many young vulnerable activists who have been involved in pro-democracy protests over the last few years are vulnerable to the risk of arbitrary arrest, lengthy jail sentences, and even the possibility of extradition to the mainland if they stay in the city," the letter stated.

The UK government has already announced a scheme to help British passport holders.

Meanwhile, the Australian government has announced the creation of a five-year graduate visa for Hong Kong students as a pathway to residency.

O'Connor said New Zealand should consider something similar.

"Fundamentally myself, Louisa Wall as a co-chair of IPAC and other MPs around the world are saying this is unacceptable, and so not only are we condemning what has happened there, but trying to find some positive avenues for people from Hong Kong who want to leave," he said.

Wall said there are about 1200 Hong Kong students in New Zealand the country is responsible for.

"Last year there were protests at the University of Auckland obviously they were uploaded to YouTube, so some of these people's names will be collected, we already know there is a surveillance operation in place," she said.

Wall said some of the students are petrified and fearful to go back to Hong Kong.

Senior lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of Auckland, Dr Stephen Noakes, said the policy would create backlash from China.

"They're going to be extremely angry and they're going to call it New Zealand interfering in domestic Chinese affairs, what kind of consequences that tangibly comes with remains to be seen, but this will not go over well," he said.

Noakes said there could also be trade implications, however he added that does not mean New Zealand, should not implement a policy.

"Is it politically smart from a international relations standpoint, probably not, but that doesn't mean it's still not the right thing to do," he said.

A spokesperson from the prime minister's office says the letter has been received and will go to the minister of foreign affairs once ministerial portfolios are allocated.

The Chinese Embassy has also been contacted for comment.