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

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3-min read

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.

Protesters against the new national security law march and gesture with five fingers, signifying the "Five demands - not one less" on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July. 1, 2020. Hong Kong marked the 23rd anniversary of its handover to China in 1997, and just one day after China enacted a national security law that cracks down on protests in the territory. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
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, Wednesday, July. 1, 2020. Hong Kong marked the 23rd anniversary of its handover to China in 1997, and just one day after China enacted a national security law that cracks down on protests in the territory. Hong Kong police said on Facebook they had arrested over 30 people on various charges, from unlawful assembly to the violation of a national security law on the first day of the law. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
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 shopping mall during a protest against China's national security legislation for the city, in Hong Kong, Friday, May 29, 2020. The British government says t it will grant hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents greater visa rights if China doesn't scrap a planned new security law for the semi-autonomous territory. U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said about 300,000 people in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) passports will be able to stay in Britain for 12 months rather than the current six. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
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.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech during a visit to Dudley College of Technology in Dudley,  England, Tuesday June 30, 2020.  Johnson promised an infrastructure investment plan to help the U.K. fix the economic devastation caused by the pandemic. (Paul Ellis/Pool Photo via 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.