U.K. Leader Pledges to Let in Hong Kong Citizens if Needed

Daniel Fowler
June 3, 2020

Johnson's column in the paper was published as Hong Kong continues to clamp down on dissent and pro-democracy activities, including the prohibition, for the first time, of the annual June 4 vigil honouring victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

China's foreign ministry spokesman said that Britain had no jurisdiction or supervision over the city, and that any threat to the city's stability and prosperity comes from foreign forces.

"The ball is in the court of the government in China, it has a choice to make here", British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told parliament.

Late last month, the National People's Congress, which acts as China's rubberstamp parliament, cleared the path for the national security law to be imposed on Hong Kong, prohibiting among others acts of sedition, secession, terrorism and foreign interference.

According to figures obtained by the Mingpao newspaper from the British Passport Office, BNO renewal applications increased in the second half of past year, amid sometimes violent anti-government protests, with the number totalling more than 120,000 in 2019 compared with about 14,000 in 2017 and 2018. However, while Washington extensively criticized the Hong Kong police's handling of the protests, now the U.S. is seeing its own mass demonstrations and meeting them with even greater repressive force.

"There is time for China to reconsider, there is a moment for China to step back from the brink and respect Hong Kong's autonomy and respect China's own global obligations", British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told parliament.

Human-rights groups and parliamentarians, including Conservative MP Kenny Chiu, say they expect a further exodus from Hong Kong composed of three different streams of people: some of the 300,000 Hongkongers with Canadian citizenship, who comprise Canada's second-biggest overseas community; Hong Kong residents with relatives in Canada; and finally, people fleeing the crackdown who have no ties to Canada. The ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, stressed the need for the national security laws.

Despite Britain's relatively weak hand - with little ability to defend a territory located right next to mainland China - Thatcher secured China's agreement to a "high degree of autonomy" for Hong Kong after the handover, with its "social and economic systems" remaining "unchanged" and its laws "basically unchanged". "We advise the United Kingdom side to step back from the brink".

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Mr Barnier stated the EU's heads of state remembered "very clearly the textual content which we negotiated with Boris Johnson".

AmChamsaid many respondents said they understood the need for the law, which comes in the wake of six months of often violent anti-government unrest past year.

BNO passport holders now can stay in the United Kingdom for only up to six months.

About 350,000 people in Hong Kong now hold British National (Overseas) passports, which allow visa-free access to Britain for up to six months.

The proposal would also give those passport holders "further immigration rights, including the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship".

The security legislation also met with stinging criticism from the United States.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that Washington was "considering" welcoming the "entrepreneurial creativity" of Hong Kongers in his country.

"Since the handover in 1997, the key has been the precious concept of "one country, two systems", enshrined in Hong Kong's Basic Law and underpinned by the Joint Declaration signed by Britain and China", Johnson wrote.

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