The British government will offer up to 3 million eligible Hong Kong citizens access to the United Kingdom and a path to citizenship, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Wednesday.
Eligible citizens are those who can own British National (Overseas) passports, which are available for Hong Kong citizens who lived in the city while it was still a British colony, according to the South China Morning Post. There are around 300,000 BN(O) passport holders and an estimated 2.5 million people are eligible for the document, the paper reports. (RELATED: Prime Minister Boris Johnson Says 3 Million People From Hong Kong Can Come To UK)
BN(O) holders will be granted five years to work or study, after which they may apply for settled status for 12 months and finally citizenship, the BBC reported. There will be no quotas on the number of people who can travel to the U.K. Family dependents, which includes those under the age of 18 and spouses will also be eligible, according to the BBC.
The announcement comes as China’s National People’s Congress passed the sweeping national security law Tuesday, which criminalizes terrorism, subversion, secession and collusion with foreign countries, the BBC reported. This means even peaceful protests calling for Hong Kong independence from China could be considered secession and result in life imprisonment for protesters, according to Reuters.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told parliament Wednesday the plan was developed “for the unique circumstances we face, and in light of our historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong.”
Today I updated the House on the grave and disturbing situation in Hong Kong. We will continue to bring together our international partners to stand up for the people of Hong Kong, to call out the violation of their freedoms, and to hold China to their international obligations. pic.twitter.com/Yj27b8aAfO
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) July 1, 2020
Johnson condemned the new law, saying it threatens “the freedoms and rights protected by the [Sino-British Joint Declaration].” The declaration was signed in 1984 between the U.K. and China and was designed to keep Hong Kong’s capitalist and democratic way of life as a highly autonomous city of China until 2047, according to the South China Morning Post.
“Many people in Hong Kong fear that their way of life — which China pledged to uphold — is under threat. 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,” Johnson wrote in a column last month.
Three females were arrested respectively for showing materials with #HKIndependence slogans in #CausewayBay, violating #NSL. Anyone who organises, plans, commits or participates in committing secession or undermining national unification shall be guilty of an offence. pic.twitter.com/SB3vYQyiha
— Hong Kong Police Force (@hkpoliceforce) July 1, 2020
Raab said the new laws “represent a flagrant assault on freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful protest for the people of Hong Kong.” Over 300 people have already been arrested for defying the new laws, with most of the arrests being for protesting Chinese intrusion into the former British colony.
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