UK MPs call for release of former HK lawmaker

time:2023-06-03 23:11:34 source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation)

A group of 54 British MPs and public figures have called for the release of a former Hong Kong lawmaker so she can visit her critically-ill husband.

Claudia Mo, 66, has been in detention since being arrested in 2021 under a controversial national security law.

Her husband, British journalist Philip Bowring, has pneumonia and is in a Hong Kong intensive care ward.

The group has urged the UK Foreign Secretary to raise the family's case with Hong Kong authorities.

"Considering Philip's deteriorating medical condition, we urge you to intercede on Claudia Mo's behalf with the Hong Kong government... so she can be with her husband," read the letter, sent on 24 February.

It also argued the UK's foreign office bore a "special responsibility" for Ms Mo's welfare as her husband and two children are UK citizens.

Ms Mo had previously also held British citizenship which she gave up after becoming a member of Hong Kong's parliament, the Legislative Council.

The former lawmaker is one of the so-called Hong Kong 47 group- who are on trial for alleged "subversion". She was one of the dozens in the pro-democracy parties arrested for organising and holding an unofficial primary vote in 2020.

The group includes some of the city's most prominent pro-democracy figures, such as student activist Joshua Wong and law professor Benny Tai. Most of them have been detained the past two years on security grounds.

The rights group that organised the letter, the UK-based Hong Kong Watch, told the BBC they had received no response yet from Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

Signatories include Hong Kong's last British governor Chris Patten, former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the Conservative Party's 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady and former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.

It urges the UK government to press Hong Kong authorities and secure the release of the Hong Kong 47 opposition lawmakers and activists.

The letter also notes that many of the 47 charged possess British National Overseas (BNO) status, which under a special visa scheme enables Hong Kong residents to come to the UK for up to five years and apply for permanent residency.

The trial of the Hong Kong 47 is currently ongoing - but 31 people including Ms Mo, Mr Wong and Mr Tai have already pleaded guilty and will be sentenced after the trial.

Critics say the national security law is being used as a tool to crush civil dissent, but Chinese and Hong Kong authorities maintain it is needed to curb unrest.

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