The UK will allow thousands to move to Britain if China presses ahead with plans to reduce the territory’s level of autonomy. The Chinese rubber-stamp parliament has signed off on a new “national security” law for Hong Kong, which will be imposed without the approval of its democratically elected assembly.
The governments of the UK, USA, Australia and Canada have issued a joint statement warning that “the rights of Hong Kong people” are under threat from the new “national security” law.
The law targets “sedition” and “subversion”.
People in Hong Kong fear the legislation will be used to criminalise the pro-independence movement and prevent people from protesting in favour of democratic reform.
In a joint statement, the UK, USA, Australia and Canada expressed “deep concern regarding Beijing’s decision to impose a national security law in Hong Kong”.
The UK could allow thousands of Hong Kong residents to move to Britain
The UK has joined forces with the, USA, Canada and Australia to oppose new security laws for Hong Kong
They added: “China’s decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.
“The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework.
“It also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people.”
Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab has warned that if China does not withdraw the law, the UK will change the rules for 169,000 holders of British National (Overseas) passports, issued to Hong Kong residents at the time of the handover in 1997.
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The UK will allow thousands to move to Britain if China presses ahead with plans to reduce the territory’s level of autonomy
Currently these passports do not convey the right to live or work in Britain, beyond a six-month stay in the country as a visitor.
However, this could be set to change if the law goes through.
Mr Raab said: “If China goes down this path and implements this national security legislation, we will be required to change the status of BNO passport holders and set in train arrangements which allow them to come to the UK for longer than the current six-month period and to apply for extendable periods of 12 months to work and study, which itself will provide a passport to citizenship.”
The move is likely to anger the Chinese government, amid mounting tensions between China and the western countries over the coronavirus crisis.
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The Chinese rubber-stamp parliament has signed off on a new ‘national security’ law for Hong Kong
The move is likely to anger the Chinese government, amid mounting tensions between China and the western countries over the coronavirus crisis
China is known to view any Western assistance to Hong Kong as interference in its internal affairs.
China and the UK signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1997, guaranteeing substantial autonomy to Hong Kong for at least 50 years.
Campaigners have welcomed the UK’s decision to widen the rights of BNO passport holders..
Johnny Patterson of Hong Kong Watch said: “I hope this will be an important first step by the UK Government in robustly standing up for the Joint Declaration with international partners.”
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Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael called on the Government to go further and grant the passport to all Hong Kong residents, not just those who were able to apply for it before 1997.
The news comes as a Chinese city with 2.8million residents has been hit with a fresh wave of coronavirus cases all coming from an “unknown source”.
Officials in China are currently working to uncover the source of a new cluster of cases in the north-eastern city of Mudanjian.
The city, located in Heilongjiang province, has recorded a total of 11 domestic infections with no symptoms in the past three days.
The law will be imposed without the approval of its democratically elected assembly
The Heilongjiang Provincial Health Commission reported that the new cases have prompted local authorities to shut down public transport, with railway and coach stations closed yesterday.
Domestic and international flights have all been cancelled.
Now, schools and classes have been suspended with students sent home.
The city government has yet to release an official notice to seal off all residential complexes.