British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered a right to live and work in the UK to any of the nearly 3 million Hong Kong citizens eligible for a British National Overseas passport.
According to the details, the visa offer would become active only if China presses ahead with new security laws were pursued that strip Hong Kong of its traditional freedoms.
British PM wrote in the Times that if the security laws were pursued, “Britain would have no choice but to uphold our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong”.
Borris Jhonson said, “Today about 350,000 people hold British Nationals (Overseas) passports and another 2.5 million people would be eligible to apply for them. At present these passports allow for visa-free access for up to six months.
The British Premier added, “If China imposes its national security law, the British government will change its immigration rules and allow any holder of these passports from Hong Kong to come to the UK for a renewable period of 12 months and be given further immigration rights including the right to work which would place them on the route to citizenship.”
He said, “This would amount to one of the biggest changes to our visa system in history. If it proves necessary Britain will take this step and take it willingly.”
Note that, China has accused the United States of holding the United Nations hostage to a controversial security law for Hong Kong, warning Western nations to stay away from its internal affairs.
Earlier, the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia had criticized the plan, which would lead to secession, coup d’etat, terrorism and any threat to national security. At the same time, Chinese security agencies will be allowed to operate openly in Hong Kong.
China’s rubber-stamp parliament approved the bill’s plans on Thursday, following seven months of massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year.
Diplomatic sources said China had thwarted initial US efforts to put the dispute on the UN Security Council agenda, after which the United States and Britain succeeded in holding informal discussions.
The four countries said in a joint statement that the security law proposed by Beijing was “in direct conflict” with China’s international obligations to guarantee freedoms in Hong Kong.
They cited Hong Kong’s special status within China under the terms of its extradition from Britain in 1997, saying “the proposed law would harm the one-country, two-system framework”.
Beijing, on the other hand, says it has registered a formal protest against the four countries.
“We urge the countries concerned to respect China’s sovereignty and stop interfering in Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Xiao Lijian said in a news briefing.
He called the US approach “meaningless” and said China would not allow the US to hold the council hostage for its own purposes.
“We urge the United States to immediately end this senseless political manoeuvre,” he said.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Robb had said that “if China passes this new law, London will have a special status for its people at the time of extradition to Hong Kong. The rules will expand.
However, Xiao Lijian warned that Beijing has the right to “retaliate against such a move.”
The Chinese parliament’s vote comes just hours after Washington revoked the special status granted to Hong Kong, paving the way for the region to be deprived of trade and economic benefits.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed the US Congress on May 27 that Hong Kong no longer deserves preferential trade and commercial status from the United States.
He said the status was withdrawn because China was not abiding by its extradition treaty with Britain to allow Hong Kong sovereignty at a higher level.
US President Donald Trump had said that the administration would start scrapping special agreements with Hong Kong that were not made with China.
He had said that this included withdrawal of some export exemptions.
Donald Trump had said that China has changed the formula of one country two systems from one country one system.
It is to be noted that before the extradition of Hong Kong from Britain to China, an “one country, two systems” model was agreed upon, under which Hong Kong was guaranteed some freedoms till 2047.