Boris Johnson vows to provide security for Hong Kongers fearing authoritarian China

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The Prime Minister made the remarks in an op-ed in Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post. Critics of the proposed legislation fear it would undermine Hong Kong’s political, economic and judicial autonomy, that China agreed to in the Joint Sino-British Declaration. Mr Johnson said: “There is something wonderful about the fact that a small island in the Pearl River Delta rose to become a great trading city and commercial powerhouse of East Asia.

“Wonderful, but not accidental or fortuitous.

“Hong Kong succeeds because its people are free.”

The city was a British colony for more than 150 years before being returned to China, the agreement between London and Beijing mandated that Hong Kong would continue to enjoy greater freedoms compared to the mainland.

Despite this in the 23 years since the handover, Hong Kong has not yet achieved universal suffrage for the election of its’ Chief Executive.

The post is instead chosen by an election committee of 2,000 members that is considered pro-Beijing.

The controversial legislation was proposed before in 2003 but dropped after marches against it.

The law aims to criminalise subversions of Chinese authority and Beijing says end foreign interference in the city.

Mr Johnson wrote: “Yet last month, the National People’s Congress in Beijing decided to impose a national security law on Hong Kong, which would curtail its freedoms and dramatically erode its autonomy.

“If China proceeds, this would be in direct conflict with its obligations under the Joint Declaration, a legally binding treaty registered with the United Nations.

“Britain would then have no choice but to uphold our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong.”

At least 350,000 Hong Kongers are British Nationals Overseas and a further 2.5 million are eligible for this status.

Holders of this passport can come to the UK for six months visa-free and request British consular assistance in third party countries.

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Mr Johnson proposed to now “allow any holder of these passports from Hong Kong to come to the UK for a renewable period of 12 months and be given further immigration rights, including the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship”.

He said: “This would amount to one of the biggest changes in our visa system in British history.

“If it proves necessary, the British government will take this step and take it willingly.”

He added: “Many people in Hong Kong fear 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.”

Mr Johnson added he was still optimistic that China will reconsider and added Britain did not wish to impede the rise of the nation.

The Prime Minister revealed that Britain raised issues about the events in Hong Kong at the UN Security Council.

Last year, protests broke out over a planned extradition bill which could have allowed Hong Kongers to be extradited to the mainland, which critics feared would put the population at risk of political persecution by mainland authorities.

Mr Johnson concluded: “Britain wants nothing more than for Hong Kong to succeed under “one country, two systems”.

“I hope that China wants the same. Let us work together to make it so.”

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