UK says it will change immigration rules to help Hong Kong citizens
The Prime Minister has issued a statement saying that the UK will change its immigration rules to offer millions of individuals in Hong Kong a new “route to citizenship” in the event that China imposes its proposed security laws.
In a statement in the Times, Johnson said that Britain would “have no choice” but to uphold its ties to Hong Kong if China were to impose its proposed new law on Hong Kong nationals. The law – which is still in its draft stages– would place a range of restrictions on citizens by making a criminal act of ‘succession’ (breaking away from the country) and ‘subversion’ (undermining the authority or power of the central government in any way), amongst other things. As part of preliminary plans, officials have suggested that China could be able to use this law as a means to set up its own institutions in Hong Kong which would monitor and control populates.
Johnson said that Britain would “have no choice” but to uphold its ties to Hong Kong…
China is facing mounting criticism over this new law. Citizens of Hong Kong fear that this law could result in their being punished for criticising the rulings of Beijing, as happens in mainland China. Hong Kong has relied on both free speech and protest as tools to incite and enact change (both historically and very recently) and as a result, its people are afraid that China’s new law will infringe on this.
In light of this, the PM has responded by stating that Britain “will not walk away” from Hong Kong at this time. As it stands, primary control over the territory lays with China, and has done since 1997 when it was handed back from the UK under an agreement that essentially shared and devolved powers to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has relied on both free speech and protest as tools to incite and enact change […] people are afraid that China’s new law will infringe on this.
In the Times, Johnson said that if China were to pass the law into practice individuals in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports could come to the UK for 12 months without needing a visa. Currently, they are allowed six months in the UK. This extended period, the PM stated, could be used as a “route to citizenship”.
This may result in Hong Kong British citizenship applications souring within the next year.
Currently, about 350,000 people in Hong Kong hold a BNO passport, but there are an estimated 2.6 million people who are also eligible.
These immigration changes would be some of the biggest the UK’s immigration system has ever seen, by Johnson’s own admission.
“If it proves necessary, the British government will take this step and take it willingly”, he stated earlier this week.
“Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life, which China pledged to uphold, is under threat.”
“If China proceeds to justify these fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honour obligations and provide an alternative”.
No. 10 is currently in talks with allies, including countries in the Five Eyes alliance. According to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, the talks are concerning ways to handle a potential “exodus” of people from Hong Kong.
“Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life, which China pledged to uphold, is under threat.”Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister
So far, senior MPs have been in talks with representatives from Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. All four countries have also come together to urge the UN to appoint an envoy in Hong Kong to monitor how this new law impacts citizens’ human rights.
As it stands, the law is still at its preliminary stages, though it has now been rubber-stamped and passed through Chinese parliament. Now it is to be fleshed out and drafted into the legal system.