CAMPAIGNS: Fighting for the citizenship prize - Lobbying

As holders of British national overseas passports with no right to reside in the UK, up to 8,000 non-ethnically Chinese residents of Hong Kong faced the prospect of being stateless when Britain hands over Hong Kong to China on 1 July this year.

As holders of British national overseas passports with no right to

reside in the UK, up to 8,000 non-ethnically Chinese residents of Hong

Kong faced the prospect of being stateless when Britain hands over Hong

Kong to China on 1 July this year.



Many of Indian and Pakistani origin have links with Britain going back

to the 1840s when around 2,000 Indian soldiers were deployed when

Britain took over the colony.



In 1996, John Major gave a guarantee of resettlement in the UK if these

people were asked to leave, but the UK Government stood by its policy of

not granting full British passports.



Home Secretary Michael Howard was particularly opposed to a change in

policy because he reportedly saw this as an immigration issue.



Objective



To gain full British citizenship for Hong Kong residents who after the

handover would have no full citizenship of any country in the world.



Tactics



LSA used a mix of Parliamentary lobbying and media activity to try to

get the Government to change its stance.



Lobbying began by identifying key opinion formers who already supported

the issue such as the Governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten, ex-governors

such as Baroness Dunn, and Baroness Thatcher.



Media activity started in September when Christine Loh from Hong Kong’s

Legislative Council, came to the UK to talk about the ethnic minorities

issue.



A second wave of media activity surrounded the UK visit of Vandana

Rajwani, a 26-year-old barrister and member of the ethnic minority

campaign, whose application to attend a Bar course in the UK was

rejected because she did not have a full British passport.



A Private Members bill was prepared and introduced in the Lords by Lord

Willoughby de Broke on 21 November and given cross-Party approval.



During the passage of the bill through the Lords and then into the

Commons, LSA produced a newsletter giving an update on developments and

asking for further support which was widely circulated to MPs and Peers.

In a third media campaign in January, Ravi Gidumal, leader of the Indian

Resources Group was brought over to the UK. He also hosted a briefing

session in the House.



LSA coordinated media activity in Hong Kong through the Indian Resources

Group, helping to ensure there was no confusion about who was eligible

for a full British passport.



Results



The three principle media initiatives all led to interviews on Radio 4’s

Today programme. A Sunday Times article about the issue, said that a

letter from the Queen had made clear her personal concern, and further

broadsheet coverage resulted.



Vandana Rajwani’s visit to the UK gained widespread coverage in the

Asian media including Sunrise Radio, Asian cable station Zee TV, and the

Gujarati Times.



The Financial Times and the Independent ran leaders at the end of

January giving their support.



Extensive lobbying led to a Commons debate on Hong Kong in November and

Labour MP Robin Cook announced that Labour would grant full

passports.



As a result of continued lobbying, several Parliamentarians also spoke

to Home Secretary, Michael Howard, the main opponent of the Bill, about

the issue.



On 4 February, bowing to pressure from all sides, Michael Howard

announced a climbdown and said the affected people would get full

British passports.



The climbdown gained wide coverage in the broadsheets, but little

interest from the tabloids.



Verdict



At the outset of the campaign, leading figures had suggested to LSA that

there was no way the Government would change its policy.



Extensive lobbying was successful in getting a significant number of

opinion formers to speak up on the issue. Well staged media visits at

key moments in the campaign also helped swell public support.



In the Guardian, Vivek Chaudhary and Rebecca Smithers acknowledged the

role of ’sustained lobbying by Tory MPs and representatives of Hong

Kong’s non-Chinese community’ in getting Michael Howard to change his

mind.



Client: Hong Kong Indian Resources Group

PR Team: LSA

Campaign: Hong Kong Ethnic Minorities Passport Campaign

Timescale: July 1996 - February 1997

Budget: just over pounds 20,000



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