British government insists 3 million Hong Kong residents can come to UK after China crackdown

Andy WellsFreelance Writer
Yahoo News UK

The government is ready to “stand by” its commitment to give 3 million Hong Kong residents UK citizenship, following China’s imposition of a controversial security law.

The law directly targets some of the actions of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong last year, which included attacks on government offices and police stations, damage to subway stations, and the shutdown of the city's international airport.

Acts of vandalism against government facilities or public transport can be prosecuted as subversion or terrorism, while anyone taking part in activities deemed as secessionist would also be in violation of the new law.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad
Protesters against the new national security law march on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain in Hong Kong. (AP)
Protesters against the new national security law march on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain in Hong Kong. (AP)

Business secretary Alok Sharma has condemned the law, but reaffirmed the government’s commitment to residents of the former British colony.

He told Times Radio: "This is very disappointing.

"Clearly this is not something that we wanted. We have also, as you know, made a commitment to the people of Hong Kong and that's something we will stand by.”

Police detain protesters after a protest in Causeway Bay before the annual handover march in Hong Kong. (AP)
Police detain protesters after a protest in Causeway Bay before the annual handover march in Hong Kong. (AP)

Citizenship vow

In May, the government announced that up to 3 million Hong Kong residents would be eligible to apply for UK citizenship, infuriating the Chinese government.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said visa rights would be extended from six months to at least 12 months, paving the way for future UK citizenship.

“British national (overseas)” (BNO) passports were held by a majority of Hong Kong residents before the territory was handed over to the Chinese in 1997.

First arrests

The new national security law’s passage comes after Hong Kong's legislature in early June made it illegal to insult the Chinese national anthem.

Under the law, those found guilty of inciting secessionist, subversive, terrorist activities and colluding with foreign forces could face life imprisonment if they are deemed masterminds of such activities.

MORE: Couple travelled to collect heroin with two-year-old in back seat

Hong Kong police have made their first arrests under the law, arresting at least two protesters for carrying flags and signs calling for independence.

A man with a Hong Kong independence flag was arrested at a protest in the Causeway Bay shopping district after police issued multiple warnings to the crowd that they might be in violation of the law, according to a police statement.

A protester holds a British national (overseas) passport in a Hong Kong shopping mall during a protest against China's national security legislation for the region. (AP)
A protester holds a British national (overseas) passport in a Hong Kong shopping mall during a protest against China's national security legislation for the region. (AP)

Officers later arrested a woman for holding up a sign displaying the British flag and calling for independence.

Police said later on Facebook that they had arrested more than 30 people on various charges, from unlawful assembly to violation of the national security law.

Boris Johnson has vowed to look 'very carefully' at the law to see if it breaches a treaty between the UK and Beijing. (AP)
Boris Johnson has vowed to look 'very carefully' at the law to see if it breaches a treaty between the UK and Beijing. (AP)

Condemnation

Boris Johnson has vowed to look "very carefully" at the law to see if it breaches a treaty between the UK and Beijing.

The prime minister said the government was "deeply concerned" that the legislation had been passed.

Raab described China's actions as a "grave" and "deeply troubling" step.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said Raab should not "waver" on support for Hong Kong.

What to read next