- China has warned the UK that it will “firmly oppose” Boris Johnson’s offer to welcome up to 3 million Hong Kong citizens to Britain.
- The UK government has offered a path to citizenship for Hong Kong citizens with British visa rights.
- China said the offer is a breach of international law and pledged to take “corresponding measures” in retaliation.
- Australia is also considering opening its doors to Hong Kong citizens.
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China has warned the UK it will “firmly oppose” Boris Johnson’s plans to welcome up to 3 million of Hong Kong citizens to Britain.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in the UK said any attempt to open Britain’s doors to Hong Kong citizens would breach international law and threatened to take “corresponding measures” to prevent it.
Johnson’s offer to Hong Kong citizens came after Beijing imposed a controversial security law in spite of international opposition and which has already seen hundreds of pro-democracy protestors arrested this week.
Speaking about Johnson’s offer, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the UK said on Thursday: “We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures.
“We urge the British side to view objectively and fairly the national security legislation for Hong Kong, respect China’s position and concerns, refrain from interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any way.”
Hong Kong police arrested at least 300 protestors on the first day that China’s new security laws were introduced in Hong Kong. Critics of the law say it gives Beijing sweeping new powers to arrest dissenters on the semi-autonomous island and to crack down on freedom of speech. The US, the EU, and the UK all oppose the law.
China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, has called criticism of the new law “irresponsible and unwarranted” and said the UK’s offer of residency to Hong Kong citizens represented a “gross interference in China’s internal affairs.
Speaking on Wednesday, Johnson said that the UK would press ahead with the offer to offer residency to Hong Kong citizens because China’s national security legislation breached the Sino-British joint relations, signed by Beijing and London in 1984.
The UK government will offer five-year residency permits to any Hong Kong residents who are eligible to apply for a British passport, Johnson said.
“The enactment and imposition of this national-security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the prime minister told the House of Commons on Wednesday.
“It violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and is in direct conflict with Hong Kong basic law.
“The law also threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration.”
But Dominic Raab, the UK foreign secretary, has admitted that the UK would not be able to “coercively force” China if it tried to stop residents in Hong Kong from moving to the UK.
“Ultimately if they follow through on something like that there would be little that we could do to coercively force them,” he told ITV’s Peston show.
The row came as Australia announced plans to consider extending a similar offer to Hong Kong residents.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was “prepared to provide support” to people in the semiautonomous region.
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