U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered three million citizens of Hong Kong the opportunity to live and work in the U.K., following China’s implementation of new security regulations on the region.
Johnson told Parliament on July 1 that the Hong Kong authorities’ enactment of the ‘Rule of the People’s Republic of China on the Safeguarding of National Security in the Special Administrative Region’ was a ‘clear and serious breach’ of the 1985 Sino-British Joint Declaration. When China won sovereignty in 1997, the legally binding international agreement outlined how those rights should remain secured for 50 years.
“We stand for rules and obligations. And we think that is the scientific basis for our international relations and the enactment and deposition of this national security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” Johnson told the parliament after China made its first arrest in Hong Kong.
Johnson further added,
“It violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration. We made clear that if China continued down this path we would introduce a new route for those with British National (Overseas) status to enter the UK, granting them limited leave to remain with the ability to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship. And that is precisely what we will do now.”
Approximately 300,000 Hong Kong citizens have British National Overseas (BNO) passports and an additional 2.6 million are eligible to apply.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK offer also applied to those with BNO status dependents, but declined to be drawn into how many would apply.
“This is a special, bespoke, set of arrangements developed for the unique circumstances we face and in light of our historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong,” said Raab.
Eligible Hong Kong citizens are now entering the UK without a visa for six months. Under the new policy, they will have the right to five years of living and working in the country. After that, they are eligible to apply for settled status and then citizenship again.
Hong Kongers born after the end of British rule in 1997 are not eligible, meaning in effect, many of the young student activists in the city who are at greatest risk of arrest under the new law can not take advantage of the British offering.