Britain is targeting a new immigration law for Hong Kong. People who belonged to the colony until 1997 should be able to become British.
According to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, three million Hong Kong citizens will soon be able to avail themselves of changes to the British Immigration Act, which are intended to give them later British citizenship.
The announcement was followed on Wednesday by a guest post by the premier in the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post. Hong Kong residents who registered with British Overseas Status (BNO) prior to the return of the former British Crown Colony to China in 1997 could soon expect to be able to extend their residence permit to twelve instead of just six months, Johnson said. After five years, this could lead to permanent residence and then British citizenship. The introduction depends on the developments and implementation of the new Hong Kong security law.
The British government sees the security law, which severely restricts political freedoms, as a violation of the joint declaration between China and Great Britain. This would violate Hong Kong’s agreed economic and social sanctity at the time, according to the core phrase “one country, two systems”. If China advances, Britain would see it as a direct violation of international law. It sees itself as a former colonial power responsible to the Hong Kong population.
Zhao Lijan, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, criticized the announcements: The United Kingdom had made careless and bottomless accusations, it said. China would strongly condemn this and allow itself to take further measures. Liu Xiamoming, Chinese ambassador to London, said the British were going to break the deal. The British had promised not to expand the entry requirements for Hong Kong citizens – they should now be understood as Chinese citizens. In Hong Kong, however, many complained that these entry rights would not apply to the younger generations. This was said, among other things, by the pro-democratic Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai.
Australia wants to follow with similar entry facilities for Hong Kong citizens. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has meanwhile admitted in a television interview that if China later refuses to allow Hong Kong residents to leave the country, Britain can do little about it. He relied on China’s concern for its good reputation in the international community, in order to persuade the Beijing government not to implement the Hong Kong security law, or at least only partially.