The UK may supply British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong a path to UK citizenship if China doesn’t droop plans for a safety legislation within the territory, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says.
There are 300,000 BNO passport holders in Hong Kong.
They have the proper to go to the UK for as much as six months with out a visa.
Mr Raab’s assertion got here after the UK, US, Australia and Canada issued joint condemnation of Beijing’s safety legislation.
The legislation – which has been handed by China’s parliament – would make it against the law to undermine Beijing’s authority in Hong Kong.
The 4 nations mentioned imposing the safety legislation would undermine the “one country, two systems” framework agreed earlier than Hong Kong was handed over from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
It assured Hong Kong some autonomy and afforded rights and freedoms that don’t exist in mainland China.
China has rejected international criticism of the legislation.
What did Raab say?
British National (Overseas) passports have been issued to folks in Hong Kong by the UK earlier than the switch of the territory to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
Announcing the potential change in coverage, Mr Raab mentioned the six-month restrict on stays within the UK for BNO holders could be scrapped.
“If China continues down this path and implements this national security legislation, we will remove that six month limit and allow those BNO passport holders to come to the UK and to apply to work and study for extendable periods of 12 months and that will itself provide a pathway to future citizenship,” he mentioned.
The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale says that in Beijing the menace will likely be seen as an escalation and is more likely to immediate a strong response.
China may not thoughts if some pro-democracy campaigners escape to the UK however the flight of gifted wealth creators could be of concern, our correspondent says.
Some MPs need the UK to go additional and supply automated citizenship. Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the international affairs choose committee, mentioned BNO holders ought to have an automated proper to dwell and work within the UK.
The authorities has previously rejected calls to provide BNO holders in Hong Kong full citizenship.
Last 12 months greater than 100,000 folks in Hong Kong signed a petition calling for full rights. The authorities responded by saying that solely UK residents and sure Commonwealth residents had the proper of abode within the UK and cited a 2007 evaluate which mentioned giving BNO holders full citizenship could be a breach of the settlement underneath which the UK handed Hong Kong again to China.
However in 1972 the UK provided asylum to some 30,000 Ugandan Asians with British Overseas passports after the then-military ruler Idi Amin ordered about 60,000 Asians to depart. At the time some MPs mentioned India ought to take accountability for the refugees, however Prime Minister Edward Heath mentioned the UK had an obligation to simply accept them.
What different response has there been?
Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy earlier mentioned the UK needed to be extra sturdy with Beijing.
Referring to the safety legislation, she informed the BBC: “This is the latest in a series of attempts by China to start to erode the joint declaration which Britain co-signed with the Chinese government when we handed over Hong Kong, and protected its special status.”
“We want to see the UK government really step up now,” she mentioned.
Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt mentioned the UK ought to convey collectively a coalition of nations to keep away from a tragedy within the territory.
He informed the BBC: “This is certainly probably the most harmful interval there has ever been by way of that settlement.
“With our unique legal situation, Britain does have a responsibility now to pull together that international coalition and to do what we can to protect the people of Hong Kong.”
On Thursday Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman informed a Westminster briefing: “We are deeply involved about China’s laws associated to nationwide safety in Hong Kong.
“We have been very clear that the safety laws dangers undermining the precept of 1 nation, two programs.
“We are in close contact with our international partners on this and the Foreign Secretary spoke to US Secretary [Mike] Pompeo last night.”
He added: “The steps taken by the Chinese government place the Joint Declaration under direct threat and do undermine Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.”
On Wednesday, Mr Pompeo mentioned developments in Hong Kong meant it may now not be thought-about to have “a high degree of autonomy” from mainland China.
This may result in Hong Kong being handled the identical as mainland China underneath US legislation, which might have main implications for its commerce hub standing.