Health

UK offers Hong Kongers citizenship over China’s ‘serious breach’ of pact

Issued on: 01/07/2020 – 23:56Modified: 02/07/2020 – 00:19

Britain on Wednesday extended Hong Kong residents a broader path to citizenship in response to China's sweeping new security law for the former UK territory.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement represents the most direct international response to legislation that has been roundly condemned by Western allies.

It comes during a London review of its entire range of relations with Beijing that includes a reassessment of the role China's Huawei is playing in the buildup of Britain's 5G data network.

"We stand for rules and obligations," Johnson told parliament just hours after China made its first arrests in Hong Kong under the new legislation.

"The enactment and deposition of this national security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration."

Johnson said London had warned Beijing that it would introduce a new route for those with British National Overseas status to move to the UK.

"And that is precisely what we will do now," he said.

About 300,000 Hong Kongers have BNO passports and another 2.6 million are eligible to apply.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain's offer also extended to dependents of those with BNO status but refused to be drawn about how many would apply.

Sky News and other media said Raab's office also summoned China's embassador Liu Xiaoming to express its deep concern.

'Deeply disturbing'

Hong Kong was under UK jurisdiction until Britain handed it to China in 1997 with a guarantee that Beijing would preserve the city's judicial and legislative autonomy for 50 years.

But critics say the new law — passed by Beijing's rubber-stamp parliament this week without its text being released to the public — tests the limits of the "One Country, Two Systems" principle that formally entered international law in 1984.

Britain's last Hong Kong governor called details of the legislation unveiled overnight "even worse than I expected".

"It is Orwellian stuff," Chris Patten told the BBC.

"It does go wider and further than anybody had feared."

Britain's response to China's legislation offers a much smoother pathway to UK citizenship for millions of Hong Kongers.

Raab said Hong Kongers with BNO status and their dependents would first have the right to work or study in Britain for five years.

They would then have the right to apply for settled status then possible citizenship.

He said there would be "no quotas" and described the entire system as "bespoke".

"This is a grave and deeply disturbing step," he said of the Chinese law.

"China through this naRead More – Source