In protest against the proposed Hong Kong security law, the UK has given millions of residents in the Chinese Special Administrative Region prospects of enhanced immigration rights and access to British citizenship. "Many people in Hong Kong are afraid that their way of life - which China has promised to uphold - is under threat," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in a guest post for The Times and the South China Morning Post . The proposed law curtailed people's freedom in the Chinese Special Administrative Region and undermined Hong Kong's autonomy.
If China enforces the security law, its government will offer "alternatives" to these people, Johnson said. According to his information, 350,000 residents of the former British colony currently have a "British National Overseas" passport, which enables them to enter the UK without a visa and stay for six months. Another 2.5 million Hong Kongers born before the crown colony was handed over to China on July 1, 1997 could apply for such a document.
If the security law comes into force, London will change immigration laws for people with "British National Overseas" status and grant them a one-year right of residence, which can be renewed upon request. Johnson also offered them a work permit, which could "pave the way for citizenship," the British prime minister emphasized. However, he hoped that things would not go so far and that China would abide by its international commitments.
Breach of the Joint Declaration
Beijing had caused international outrage with the planned security law for Hong Kong. According to the critics, the project represents a massive encroachment on the semi-autonomous status of the former British crown colony.
China criticized the considerations and threatened "countermeasures". "All compatriots living in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals," said a spokesman for the foreign ministry. The British prime minister, on the other hand, argues that the security law would limit the freedoms guaranteed when the British crown colony was returned to China in 1997 and undermine autonomy.
"If China goes ahead with this, it would be a direct violation of the Joint Declaration, a legally binding contract registered with the United Nations," Johnson said of the return agreement. It states that the "one country, two systems" principle does not affect Hong Kong's social and economic system - as does the lifestyle and essential rights and freedoms of Hong Kong's seven million people.
Given the protests in Hong Kong that had been going on last summer, the Beijing People's Congress on Thursday approved the plans for the National Security Protection Law and instructed the Parliament's Standing Committee to adopt it. The law bypasses Hong Kong's parliament. It targets activities that Beijing sees as subversive or separatist. It also opposes foreign interference. The pro-democratic forces in Hong Kong fear that they will be targeted.