The UK confirmed on Wednesday that new arrangements will be put in place for overseas British nationals in Hong Kong following China’s imposition of a national security law on the region.
The unprecedented extension of visa rights comes after Britain accused China of breaching the 1997 Sino-British Joint Declaration, when Britain handed Hong Kong to China.
The new “bespoke” immigration rules will allow eligible citizens to live and work in the UK for longer, up to five years, and then give them a path towards full British citizenship. The offer is open to 2.9 million people in Hong Kong.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We will not look the other way on Hong Kong, and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people.”
Britain will “continue to stand up for the people of Hong Kong” and “honor our commitment” to those with British nationals (overseas) status, he added.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “China’s decision to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong is deeply regrettable. Now that China have imposed this law we will launch a new immigration route for British Nationals (Overseas) and their families.
“The UK has a historic and moral obligation to British Nationals (Overseas) in Hong Kong and we will honour our commitment to them.”
The new Chinese legislation was imposed yesterday, and a crackdown is already taking place in the former British colony.
Wednesday morning saw over 300 arrests of Hong Kong activists protesting the new law with demonstrations and raising pro-independence flags and banners.
Social media footage showed police firing pepper spray and tear gas.
Yesterday the UK called China’s new national security legislation a “grave step” that is “deeply troubling.”
“Despite the urging of the international community, Beijing has chosen not to step back from imposing this legislation,” said Raab.
Raab’s statement came on the heels of Chinese President Xi Jinping signing the decree ratifying the controversial new law.
The bill came in the wake of months of protests last year and what China has called “anti-national” activities in the semi-autonomous territory.
The legislation would make it a crime to undermine Beijing’s authority in Hong Kong.
“China has ignored its international obligations regarding Hong Kong,” said Raab.
“This is a grave step which is deeply troubling.”
“We urgently need to see the full legislation, and will use that to determine whether there has been a breach of the Joint Declaration and what further action the UK will take,” Raab added.
Hong Kong has been part of China since 1997, when the UK handed over the former colony to Beijing.
The semi-autonomous region witnessed large protests last year against a move to legalize extradition of accused people to mainland China.
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