The UK has warned it will offer a “path to citizenship” to 300,000 people in Hong Kong if China brings in a controversial national security law.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed he will “change the arrangements” for British National Overseas passport holders in Hong Kong if the law goes ahead.
Currently BNO passport holders enjoy six months’ visa free entry into the UK to visit.
Mr Raab told the Commons: “If China follows through with its proposed legislation, we will put in place new arrangements to allow BNOs to come to the UK without the current six month limit.”
He added this will “enable them to live and apply to study and work for extendable periods of 12 months – thereby also providing a pathway to citizenship.”
The BNO passport was created for Hong Kong people before Britain returned the territory to Chinese rule in 1997.
Though they are British passports that allow a holder to visit Britain for six months, they do not come with an automatic right to live and work here.
Critics warn Beijing’s insistence on its national security laws has thrown the future of the rights to protest and freedom of judiciary into question.
Beijing and Hong Kong authorities reject criticism of the national security legislation.
They claim it is aimed at tackling sedition, secession, terrorism and foreign interference, and insist the city’s high degree of autonomy will remain intact under the “one country, two systems” formula established in 1997.
The formula guarantees freedoms, including the right to protest and an independent judiciary, not seen on the mainland.
Mr Raab told Parliament: “There is a moment for China to step back from the brink and respect Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
He added China’s proposed national security law for Hong Kong would be a “clear violation” of their international obligations.
Giving an update on the situation with a statement in the Commons, Mr Raab said the proposed national security law would “undermine existing commitments to protect the rights and the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, as set out in the Joint Declaration”.
He added: “We have not yet seen the detailed, published text of the legislation, but I can tell the House that if legislation in these terms is imposed by China on Hong Kong it would violate China’s own basic law, it would up-end China’s one country, two systems paradigm and it would be a clear violation of China’s international obligations, including those specifically made to the United Kingdom under the Joint Declaration”.