A day after the British foreign secretary stated that China’s proposed national security law for Hong Kong is a “clear violation” of its international obligations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK is prepared to change its immigration rules if China imposes a national security law on Hong Kong.
Johnson reiterated that since the city was handed over to China in 1997, the key has been ‘the precious concept of one country, two systems, as reserved in Hong Kong’s Basic Law and reinforced by the Joint Declaration signed by Britain and China.
The British PM further said added China’s decision to impose a national security law on Hong Kong will “curtail its freedoms and dramatically erode its autonomy”.
Describing China’s move as being in conflict with the obligations under the Joint Declaration, Johnson said if China imposes its national security law, the British government will change its immigration rules as a countermeasure.
Under this move, the British National Overseas passport holders from Hong Kong would be allowed to enter the UK for a renewable period of 12 months and granted further immigration rights, “including the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship”.
Nearly 350,000 of the territory’s population currently holds such passports and another 2.5 million in the city of 7.5 million would become eligible to apply for them, Johnson said.
Shortly after the British Government said that it might allow holders of the document to stay in the country for a year or more, throngs of people lined up at DHL courier outlets across the city, to apply for or renew a British National (Overseas) passport.
Currently, BNO passport holders can remain in the UK as visitors for six months without a visa. But Britain’s plan to allow them to stay in the country for a longer period could include options that offer a path to citizenship.
China’s parliament last week approved a decision to create impose new security law for Hong Kong to curb sedition, secession, terrorism, and foreign interference. Mainland security and intelligence agents may be stationed in the city for the first time under the new law.
On Tuesday, Britain warned China to step back from its decision, saying it risked destroying one of the jewels of Asia’s economy while ruining the reputation of China.