Britain will not look away from is responsibilities to Hong Kong, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday, repeating London’s offer of extended visa rights in response to China’s push to impose a new law in the former British colony.
“If China follows through with this national security legislation ... we will give those people who hold BNO passports (British National Overseas’ passports) the right to come to the UK,” said Raab in an interview with the BBC.
According to Raan, only “a fraction of them would actually come.”
Raab also reiterated the UK's commitment to Hong Kong.
“We are not going to turn a blind eye, we are not going to look away from our responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong.”
Valuable statement by our EU partners, standing in solidarity with UK and our Five Eyes partners - in support of international law and the people of Hong Kong. https://t.co/HgEUBlKjp8— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) May 29, 2020
Up to 300,000 eligible for UK citizenship
The UK has opened the “path to citizenship” for up to 300,000 people in Hong Kong after China passed a controversial security law that is seen as extending Chinese rule over the autonomous city.
The plan would give a path to citizenship for BNO passport holders in Hong Kong. These estimated 300,000 people were given BNO passports by the UK before it handed over rule of Hong Kong to China in 1997, but they are currently limited to six month stays in the UK.
“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,” said Raab on Friday.
China's proposed national security law for Hong Kong is in direct conflict with its obligations under the Joint Declaration. If enacted, this law would violate Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms. UK and 🇺🇸🇦🇺🇨🇦 are deeply concerned.— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) May 28, 2020
The move would be interpreted as an escalation by Beijing, who is concerned that it would lead to a flight of talented young people to the UK, according to the BBC.
It comes amid rising tensions between China and Western governments over Beijing’s attempts to increase control over Hong Kong. Pro-Democracy activists began a campaign of street protests in June, 2019, against plans to allow extradition to mainland China.
The protests escalated throughout 2019, despite the bill being withdrawn in September, fueled by wider fears that Hong Kong’s autonomy was coming under threat from China.