Say goodbye to the Year of the Rat, and hello to the Year of the Ox.
Lunar New Year begins on Friday, welcoming in the Ox zodiac – a symbol for dependability, strength, determination and diligence. And after a difficult period, these are traits that we could all do with a lot of right now.
For inspiration, we need look no further than Hong Kong, where citizens have displayed these traits in spades. Despite facing brutal repression from the Beijing government, Hong Kong citizens have shown remarkable determination, refusing to accept this abuse as inevitable.
We have seen what they have had to put up with. Over the past few years, freedom, democracy and human rights – values that once made Hong Kong famous – have all been trampled upon. And the totalitarian National Security Laws have been used to transform the city for the worse.
So enough is enough. London has a global responsibility to stand up for Hong Kong – for the autonomy of its people. One way we can do that is by detwinning London from Beijing. It would be a global statement of London’s values — and it would send a global message. However, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor who claims he stands up for these values, doesn’t seem to agree.
When I proposed a motion in the Greater London Authority to de-twin London from Beijing, Sadiq Khan told his party to vote against it. When I called for TfL to divest its pension fund from Chinese companies involved in human rights abuses, Khan did nothing.
But despite his failures, the Government has stepped in to help our country live up to its moral, legal and historic duties. And I am delighted that Hong Kong citizens can now settle safely in the UK through the historic British National (Overseas) scheme.
As a grandchild of a Windrush immigrant, I’m proud to live in a country which offers hope, safety and freedom. My Grandmother moved to London after the war in search of a better life and greater opportunities. I’m grateful for her decision every day, as I am grateful for our city which welcomed her with open arms. I know Londoners will show the same warmth to Hong Kong citizens when they arrive.
But we shouldn’t stop there. Not only should we welcome Hong Kong citizens, we should also find ways to support their integration. Like setting up a free information service for Hong Kongers, which would help them find Cantonese-speaking lawyers, advice on jobs and places to rent.
The BN (O) visa will give Hong Kong citizens a fresh start. Now all we need is a Mayor who can promise the same for London.