British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has stated the UK’s intention to extend the rights of Hong Kongers holding so-called British overseas passports to reside and work in the country if they decide to leave Hong Kong. The measure, the minister explained, will be implemented if China insists on the imposition of the new national security law in the former British colony.
Currently, holders of these special passports, called BNO (British National Overseas), only have the right to stay in the UK for six months. But according to Raab, “if China continues on this path and implements the national security legislation, we will remove that six-month limit and allow BNO passport holders to come to the UK and apply for work and study for extendable periods of 12 months,” adding that these permits could in turn provide a route to future citizenship.
Raab was very critical of the Asian giant and called on them to reverse their intentions: “We have been very clear that if China implements this decision it would violate the autonomy and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong,” he said, adding that “obviously we are deeply concerned about this step and working with our international partners” in this regard, and “what we would like to see now is that China pauses to think and backslides on this step, that it reconsiders and above all, that it fulfils its international obligations”.
The minister’s statements come on top of a joint statement by the UK, US, Canada and Australia, which accuses Beijing of breaching agreements signed with the UK that gave Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy”.