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Dublin: 14 °C Saturday 11 July, 2020

UK and China clash as Boris Johnson offers 'route to citizenship' for 3 million Hong Kong residents

The UK offer follows China’s decision to impose a new security law on Hong Kong.

Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street on Covid-19.
Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street on Covid-19.
Image: PA

BORIS JOHNSON IS ready to open the door to nearly three million Hong Kong citizens if China imposes a new security law that critics say would rob the territory of its autonomy.

Johnson, writing in The Times, has offered to make what he says would be one of the “biggest changes” in the history of the British visa system to allow 2.85 million Hong Kong citizens the chance of fully-fledged citizenship.

The move, which represents a dramatic escalation in the stand-off between the UK and China, would put Hongkongers “on the route to citizenship”, he said. 

China’s ceremonial legislature, the National People’s Congress, endorsed a security law for Hong Kong earlier this week that has strained relations with the UK and the US.

The law will alter the territory’s mini-constitution, or Basic Law, to require its government to enforce measures to be decided later by Chinese leaders.

Critics have said the law erodes the “one country, two systems” framework that promised Hong Kong freedoms not found in mainland China for 50 years.

Protesters have taken to the streets in Hong Kong to demonstrate , despite coronavirus social distancing restrictions still being in place.

However, today China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the UK of a “Cold War mindset” and “colonial mentality” over its approach to Hong Kong.

He reiterated Bejing’s stance that the agreement with the UK over the future of Hong Kong – the Sino-British Joint Declaration – was essentially null and void.

Downing Street insisted the treaty, which was designed to smooth the transition from British rule in 1997 and guarantee a degree of autonomy, remained in force.

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It said the national security legislation expected to be imposed by Beijing was in “direct conflict” with the agreement.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Johnson said: “I want to stress one thing. I am a Sinophile.

“I think China is an incredible country and an extraordinary civilisation.

“I see absolutely no contradiction with what I’ve said earlier about Hong Kong and high-risk vendors in critical national infrastructure and wanting a good, friendly, clear-eyed, working relationship with China – and that’s what this country will have.”

Downing Street was unable to say how many Hongkongers it expected would come to the UK under the new system, which would only be introduced if Beijing continued on its current path.

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