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Prime Minister Boris Johnson Says 3 Million People From Hong Kong Can Come To UK

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, writing in The Times of London, said Wednesday that he would propose a major change in the country’s visa system, allowing for nearly 3 million people from Hong Kong to seek residence in the United Kingdom.

Johnson’s column added that this move was a response to China’s national security law in Hong Kong, and is certain to escalate tensions between the UK and China.

China’s national security law would overturn provisions in Hong Kong’s Basic Law, allowing Chinese state agencies to directly exercise control over matters of security. This, in effect, would give mainland China greater authority to crack down on the protests that have been going on in Hong Kong for over a year. (RELATED: The Hong Kong Security Law Would Suppress Criticism Of China As Beijing Buys Global Silence)

HONG KONG, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 15: Pro-democracy protesters wave flags and chant slogans outside the UK embassy on September 15, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Pro-democracy protesters have continued demonstrations across Hong Kong, calling for the city's Chief Executive Carrie Lam to immediately meet the rest of their demands, including an independent inquiry into police brutality, the retraction of the word “riot” to describe the rallies, and genuine universal suffrage, as the territory faces a leadership crisis. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Pro-democracy protesters wave British and Hong Kong colonial flags during a demonstration in Hong Kong (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Around 350,000 Hong Kong residents currently hold British National Overseas (BNO) passports, and around 2.5 million people are eligible to apply. The passports were created after the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China, and Johnson’s proposal would allow anyone with a BNO passport to come to the UK and apply for full British citizenship, The Telegraph reported.

The proposed policy would be one of the biggest changes to the British visa system in its history, expanding on an initial proposal made last week by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to allow asylum petitions from BNO passport holders. Johnson’s column, however, doesn’t address how difficult obtaining British citizenship would be, the New York Times reported.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denounced Johnson’s proposal during a press conference Wednesday, accusing the UK of having a “Cold War & colonial mindset.”

However, the UK appears willing to stand up to China over its encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy. “Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life, which China pledged to uphold, is under threat,” Johnson wrote. “If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away.”