UK Will Increase Visa Rights for Hong Kongers If China Issues Crackdownby Victoria Friedman
The British foreign secretary has said that the UK will extend visa rights to Hong Kongers if China implements its proposed ‘security’ law campaigners fear will be used to clamp down on pro-democracy demonstrations in the former British colony.
Any Hong Konger born before 1997, when the territory was handed back to China, is eligible for a British National (Overseas), or BNO, passport. BNO is unique in that while it does not confer British citizenship, it allows the holder to visit the UK visa-free for six months. There are some 300,000 BNO holders in the former colony, but an estimated 2.9 million people are eligible.
While the BNO does not allow a visitor to work in the UK, the government’s proposal to extend to 12 months would also allow them to work and stay and seek a path to citizenship.
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab said on Thursday: “In relation to BNO passport holders, currently they only have the right to come to the UK for six months.”
“If China continues down this path and implements this national security legislation, we will change that status. And 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 added, in comments reported by The Guardian.
The remarks came after the UK, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. condemned China for the proposed security law which the alliance said breaches the “one country, two systems” principle which has been in place since the 1997 handover, as well as the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The law, which could be in force as early as the end of June, would make it a crime to allegedly undermine Chinese rule in the territory, as well as banning subversion, secession, and foreign interference.
The allies said in a statement that “Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom” and that the law would “curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous”.
MPs from across the political spectrum backed the move to protect the people of Hong Kong — who were part of the British Empire and colonial family for 150 years — including Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, and the Liberal Democrats.
Communist China lashed out at the prospect of losing subjects from the highly prosperous territory, claiming that to extend the BNO would be against “international law”.
On the passing of the security law, Hong Kong Watch’s chairman Benedict Rogers told Breitbart London on Thursday that “Today freedom and autonomy in Hong Kong are dead. The Chinese Communist Party has broken its promises and killed Hong Kong.”
“Hong Kong is in grave danger; its freedoms and autonomy are being destroyed by the Chinese Communist Party regime right in front of our eyes. The international community must act rapidly and robustly to support Hong Kong,” Mr Rogers added.