By Mark T Connor • 01 July 2020 • 15:12
UK Citizenship possibility for 2.9 million pic: Twitter
LONDON – The UK will offer up to three million Hong Kong residents a path to British citizenship in response to China’s imposition of new national security law on the territory, Boris Johnson said.
The UK prime minister told MPs on Wednesday the stringent new laws represented a “clear and serious breach” of China’s obligations under the Sino-British Declaration, the treaty that has underpinned Hong Kong’s status since the UK handed over sovereignty in 1997.
London had previously threatened to offer Hong Kong residents with British National Overseas status – estimated by the UK government to number 2.9 million – a “path to citizenship” if Beijing pressed ahead with its plan to impose the measures on Hong Kong.
Johnson said in the House of Commons the UK would follow through on its pledge.
“We made clear 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,” he said.
Johnson said the law, which was passed on Tuesday and has already led to arrests of protesters, “violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy” and threatens the freedoms and rights of its citizens.
Family dependents of BNO citizens will also be eligible for the “bespoke” immigration scheme, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. There will be “no quota” on numbers taking up the scheme, he added.
Those who take it up will no longer be subject to the six-month limit on their stay, but will be granted five years’ leave to remain, after which they will be able to apply for settled status. After another year, those with settled status will be able to apply for British citizenship.
Raab said China’s decision to enact the law was a “grave and deeply disturbing step.”
“We want a positive relationship when it comes to China but we will not look the other way when it comes to Hong Kong and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people,” he told MPs.
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