China warns Britain interfering in Hong Kong will 'backfire'

Marco Green
June 3, 2020

Even before China announced its plan for the security law, there was a surge in renewals of British National Overseas Passports by Hong Kong residents, while immigration consultants have reported a rush of inquiries from people looking to move overseas.

The UK is already in talks with allies including the United States and Australia about what to do if China imposes the new law - which would make it a crime to undermine Beijing's authority - and people start fleeing Hong Kong.

But British foreign minister Dominic Raab said the six-month limit could be removed if China imposed its national security legislation on the city.

"If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honour our obligations and provide an alternative", he said.

There are some 350,000 people living in Hong Kong who now hold British National (Overseas) (BN (O)) passports, while some 2.5 million are eligible to get one.

Johnson, echoing earlier statements by cabinet ministers, said that if China imposes a national security law, Britain would allow holders of the BNO passports to remain for 12 months on a renewable basis and would grant them the right to work, placing them on a possible path to United Kingdom citizenship.

Jeremy Tam, a pro-democracy member of Hong Kong's legislative council said Hong Kongers are fearful about how the law could threaten their freedom.

Critics say the law is a breach of Beijing's "one country, two systems" governing framework, which grants Macau and Hong Kong partial autonomy from China's Central Government. "The US is no exception, the United Kingdom is no exception".

In response, Johnson said that "if necessary", the British government would take steps to welcome more Hong Kong residents to the UK. -China tensions could result in the United States potentially limiting Hong Kong banks' access to US dollars, thus putting an end to the peg.

"The UK said the legislation is authoritarian, but this word is the exact characterisation of the UK's former rule over HK", the spokesman said.

Passport-holders would also be given further immigration rights, including the right to work.

I also struggle to understand how the latest measure might ease tensions in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong authorities effectively barred the annual commemoration of the bloody 1989 crackdown - a major gathering in contrast to the imposed silence on the mainland - by extending a ban on gatherings to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

The BNO passport was created for Hong Kong people before Britain returned the territory to Chinese rule in 1997.

This guarantees Hong Kong's "high degree of autonomy" with only limited exceptions such as foreign affairs, defence or in a state of emergency.

The joint statement said the countries are "extremely concerned" that this action will exacerbate "existing deep divisions" in Hong Kong society.

Mr Raab said Britain could not coerce China but would seek to persuade it to change course.

With China maintaining tight capital controls, Hong Kong acts as a key financing conduit, hosting one of the largest stock markets in the world and acting as the biggest gateway for global investment in mainland stocks and bonds.

Demonstrations are also planned for the June 9 anniversary of last year's million-strong march against a now-withdrawn bill to allow for the extradition of offenders to mainland China, and protests three days later that police tackled with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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