On Tuesday China passed a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong, increasing its power over the territory. Terrorism, subversion and collusion with foreign elements will attract penalties of up to life imprisonment under the new law.
UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab condemned China’s move as “a clear violation” of the conditions of Hong Kong’s handover from British rule back to China in 1997.
Mr Johnson told MPs on Wednesday: “The enactment and imposition of this national security law constitute a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British joint declaration. It violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and is in direct conflict with Hong Kong’s basic law. The law also threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration.
“We made clear that if China continued down this path we would introduce a new route for those with British National Overseas Status to enter the UK, granting them limited leave to remain, with the ability to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship and that is precisely what we will do now.”
After Beijing announced plans in May to proceed with the imposition of the national security law, the UK retaliated with an “unprecedented” pledge to expand visa rights for British National Overseas passport holders in Hong Kong from six to 12 months and “provide a pathway to future citizenship”.
About 350,000 people hold valid BNO passports, a document issued to Hong Kong residents born before the handover of the territory from UK to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
However, the pledge to extend visa rights will apply to anyone eligible to apply for a BNO passport currently living in Hong Kong, of which there are estimated to be about 2.9m. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020