Boris Johnson and the United Kingdom reach out to Hong Kong. If China continues to want to impose its national security law on the territory, millions of residents of the former British colony could then be offered passports and possible access to citizenship. “Many people in Hong Kong fear that their way of life – which China is committed to maintaining – will be threatened” by this law, wrote Boris Johnson in an article for the Times of London and the South China Morning Post. “If China goes ahead and justifies these fears, Britain cannot, in conscience, shrug its shoulders and move on; on the contrary, we will honor our obligations and provide an alternative, ”assured Boris Johnson.
Some 350,000 people in Hong Kong currently hold the “British overseas passport,” which provides visa-free access to Britain for stays of up to six months, said Boris Johnson. An additional 2.5 million people would be eligible to apply for this document, which was issued to residents of the former British colony when it was returned to China in 1997.
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Law at the heart of debates
Adopted by the Chinese People’s National Assembly (PNA) but not finalized, the law on national security provides for punishing separatist, “terrorist” activities, subversion, or even foreign interference in the Chinese autonomous territory. Decided by Beijing after a wave of protests for freedoms in Hong Kong, the law has provoked international outcry and renewed unrest in this autonomous territory in southern China. Opponents of Beijing’s influence in the territory say the measure paves the way for an unprecedented regression of freedoms in the financial metropolis of 7 million inhabitants. However, Beijing made a commitment during the retrocession to guarantee Hong Kong a large autonomy and freedoms according to the principle “one country, two systems”.
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“If China imposes its national security law, the British government will amend its immigration laws and allow any holder of these passports residing in Hong Kong to come to the United Kingdom for a renewable period of 12 months and to obtain other rights, including the right to work, which would put them on the path to citizenship, ”wrote Boris Johnson. The imposition of the security law in Hong Kong “would restrict his freedoms and substantially reduce his autonomy,” said the British Prime Minister. “Britain would have no choice but to maintain its deep ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong,” he said.
Boris Johnson defends “one country, two systems”
London had previously discussed plans to grant additional rights to Hong Kong holders of a “British overseas passport”, joining international protests against the security law. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab urged Beijing to back down on Tuesday. “There is still time for China to reflect, to move away from the precipice and to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy and its own obligations as well as its international obligations,” said Dominic Raab before the Parliament.
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But Boris Johnson’s personal intervention significantly increased London’s pressure on Beijing. He also called on China not to apply the law. “I hope we don’t get there,” he wrote. “Britain is not trying to hinder the rise of China” in the concert of nations, he said. “Britain only wants Hong Kong to prosper under” one country, two systems “,” he said. “I hope China wants the same thing. Let’s work together to make it happen. “