- The UK on Wednesday said it would offer millions of Hong Kong citizens the right to move to the UK.
- About 3 million Hong Kong citizens with British visa rights and their family members will be offered a path to UK citizenship, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
- Johnson announced the move in retaliation for China’s passage of a new national-security law for Hong Kong, which he said breached the Sino-British Joint Declaration that the UK and China signed in 1984.
- The police in Hong Kong said they arrested more than 300 protesters on Wednesday after China imposed the law.
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered 3 million Hong Kong citizens the right to live and work in the UK after China defied global opposition to impose a new national-security law on Hong Kong.
Johnson told the House of Commons on Wednesday that he would go ahead with the move after China imposed the law on the semiautonomous region on Tuesday.
The law – opposed by the UK, the European Union, and the US – is designed to curtail anti-government protests in the region. The police in Hong Kong said they arrested more than 300 protesters on Wednesday.
Johnson said the law breached the Sino-British Joint Declaration that the UK and China signed in 1984.
In retaliation, the UK government will offer five years of limited leave to remain to all Hong Kong citizens eligible to apply for a British national overseas passport and their dependents – some 3 million people, Johnson said. After five years, they would be eligible to apply for settled status in the UK for another year, then they would be eligible for full UK citizenship.
“The enactment and imposition of this national-security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” Johnson told members of Parliament on Wednesday.
“It violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and is in direct conflict with Hong Kong basic law.
“The law also threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration.”
He added: “We made clear, Mr. Speaker, that if China continued down this path we would introduce a new route for those with British national overseas status to enter the UK, granting them limited leave to remain with the ability to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship – and that is precisely what we will do now.”
The UK government has estimated that as of February there were 349,881 holders of British overseas national passports and 2.9 million people who were entitled to one in Hong Kong.
A Populus poll published this week by the China Research Group of Conservative MPs indicated that the British public was broadly supportive of welcoming citizens from Hong Kong. In the poll, 61% of respondents said they supported the move, while 11% said they opposed it.
Dominic Raab, the UK’s foreign secretary, said the UK “will not look the other way when it comes to Hong Kong, and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people.”
He added: “We will honour our commitment to change the arrangements for those holding BNO status and continue to stand up for the people of Hong Kong.”
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