Hongkongers in UK ask Suella Braverman to ditch ‘repressive’ anti-protest bill

Hongkongers in Britain have called on Suella Braverman to reconsider controversial measures in her public order bill, which they likened to the repressive measures used to crack down on democratic opposition in their home city.

In a letter to the UK home secretary, aspects of the bill were described as “repressive measures that threaten to paralyse entire social movement” and posed a threat to their right to protest in Britain, including against Chinese communist repression in Hong Kong.

“Many of us are, or represent and work with, Hongkongers who have recently arrived in the UK in the hopes of a better life for ourselves and our loved ones – where we can exercise our rights and freedoms without fear,” says the letter, sent on behalf of groups and communities comprising Hongkongers and east and south-east Asian people.

In their letter to Braverman, they express particular concern about two aspects of the bill: serious disruption prevention orders (SDPOs) and stop and search.

“In effect, SDPOs appear to be a kind of open-air prison for people simply seeking to exercise their rights,” they claimed, referring to the new civil orders that threaten to ban named individuals – including those who have never committed a crime – from protesting. It would also subject them to curfew conditions, restrict them from using the internet in certain ways and even require them to submit to GPS tagging.

The “wide and vague” conditions under which someone can be given an SDPO “echo the dangerously broad and indeterminate national security law that has resulted in many protesters in Hong Kong being imprisoned, some potentially for life”.

“We are concerned that Hongkongers and allies seeking to protest for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong could be given SDPOs, which could prohibit them from protesting and subject them to harsh restrictions on their liberty,” they added. “Also of great concern to us is the public order bill’s expansion of stop-and-search powers to the protest context. Many Hongkongers have experienced traumatic interactions with the police in our home city.”

The letter was sent by Democracy for Hong Kong, a group behind protests that have drawn thousands of people in Britain, including activists at the centre of opposition activism in Hong Kong.

The group said it had seen “countless reports and stories of racism and misogyny in the police force, including the murder of Sarah Everard”, and were concerned the extension of stop-and-search powers – with or without suspicion – to the protest context would deter Hongkongers and people from other communities – especially other people of colour – from exercising their rights.

The public order bill, which goes through report stage in the House of Lords on Monday, has been amended considerably in recent weeks to give police more powers to stop protests, according to the campaign group Liberty.

Peers will have the chance to reject some parts before the bill returns to the Commons if there are amendments left to vote on.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “The home secretary has been clear that we need to do more to protect the rights of the law-abiding majority to go about their business.

“The public order bill will give the police the powers they need to prevent and respond to guerrilla tactics that cause misery to the hard-working public.”