The United Kingdom is prepared to change its immigration rules and offer “a route to citizenship” to the people of Hong Kong, if China imposes a national security law in the region, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
According to BBC, Johnson, wrote in the Times that the UK would “have no choice” but to uphold its ties with the territory.
China is facing mounting criticism over its planned law, the BBC reported.
The people of Hong Kong are already in fear that the imposition of the new law could end their unique freedoms, which the rest of China does not have.
The report said that UK is already in talks with allies including the US and Australia about what to do if China imposes the new law – which would make it a crime to undermine Beijing’s authority – and people start fleeing Hong Kong.
In the Times on Wednesday, the prime minister confirmed that if China passes the law, people in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports will be allowed to come to the UK for 12 months without a visa. Currently they are allowed to come for six months.
Around 350,000 people in Hong Kong currently already have a BNO passport, but 2.6 million others are also eligible, the report said.
Earlier in the week, seven former UK Foreign Secretaries urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to form a global alliance over China’s controversial national security law for Hong Kong.
In their letter to Johnson, the cross-party group comprising Jeremy Hunt, David Miliband, Jack Straw, William Hague, Malcolm Rifkind, David Owen and Margaret Beckett, said that the UK government must be seen to lead the international response, as many countries take their cue from Britain over its former colony, the media reported.
All the former Secretaries expressed their concern at what they call China’s “flagrant breach” of Sino-British agreements by imposing tough national security laws on Hong Kong.
They urged Johnson to set up an “international contact group” of allies to coordinate any joint action, similar to that set up in 1994 to try to end the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
Incumbent Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the new security legislation “very clearly violates” the autonomy that is guaranteed under Chinese law as well as that in the 1997 agreement.
He confirmed the UK will allow those who hold British National (Overseas) passports to come to the UK and apply to study and work for an extendable 12-month period.
This will in turn “provide a path to citizenship”, he told the BBC on Sunday.
China is facing mounting criticism over a planned security law for Hong Kong which would make it a crime to undermine Beijing’s authority, said the BBC report.
Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997 but under a unique agreement.
The former British colony enjoys some freedoms not seen in mainland China – and these are set out in a mini-constitution called the Basic Law.
But there are fears the proposed law, which has sparked a mass of anti-mainland protests in Hong Kong, could compromise some of the freedoms guaranteed by the Basic Law.