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British Parliament Report Urges the UK Government To Do More for Hostages Abroad Like Jimmy Lai

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

4 April 2023 – Today, the British Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee released their report, Stolen years: combatting state hostage diplomacy, which finds that the British government fails to hold accountable countries and territories guilty of state hostage taking. The report calls for a “zero tolerance approach” to cases of state hostage taking and arbitrary detention including those which involve British passport holders Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong and Vladimir Kara-Murza in Russia. Key recommendations and findings of the report include:

  • Highlights that Jimmy Lai continues to be detained in Hong Kong as his case remains ignored by the United Nations Human Rights Office’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

  • Presents standard diplomatic representations as substantive actions to families of detainees, rather than the current little or no further detail which is not conducive to a constructive and supportive working partnership.

  • Finds that the FCDO’s presumption that “quiet diplomacy” and family silence is always appropriate is false.

  • Calls for the creation of a new high-level role of “Director for Arbitrary and Complex Detentions (DACD)” with a “direct line to the Prime Minister”.

  • Suggests that the British government should be legally required to provide consular assistance for individuals who are in arbitrary detention to maximise accountability.

  • Calls for Magnitsky-style sanctions to impose diplomatic consequences including ceasing bilateral negotiations, official visits, and trade deals.

  • Calls for a review to be carried out of all UK nationals detained overseas.

CFHK Foundation’s Director of the UK & EU, Mark Sabah, said: “I want to applaud Alicia Kearns MP and the Foreign Affairs Committee for this important report. It is a tacit criticism of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s (FCDO) policies that do not do enough to support British citizens who are being held hostage and leveraged as diplomatic tools. The CFHK Foundation fully supports the recommendations of the report, particularly regarding the need for the FCDO to immediately implement Magnitsky-style sanctions against those engaging in human rights abuses, and more transparent communications with hostages’ families. I’m also glad to see the report debunk the idea that ‘quiet diplomacy’ works.” Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns MP, said: “The Government’s approach to state-level hostage taking is failing British citizens. Detainees and their families report ministerial clumsiness, serious and avoidable errors, and even callous and hurtful comments to families. When working to bring our people home, time is truly of the essence. No action should be off the table and today’s report encourages the Government to be more bold in the measures used, including sanctions and legal proceedings.”

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