It comes in response to Beijing’s attempt to impose a new controversial security law for Hong Kong which opponents have warned would eviscerate the notion of “one country, two systems” approach.
In their joint letter to the prime minister, the cross-party group of former cabinet ministers stressed the importance of the UK taking the lead in responding to the situation unfolding in the former British colony.
Jeremy Hunt, David Miliband, Jack Straw, William Hague, Malcolm Rifkind, David Owen and Margaret Beckett urged Mr Johnson to establish an “international contact group” of allies to coordinate any joint intervention action.
“As former foreign secretaries, we write to raise our concern about the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong, which has been exacerbated by the announcement that the Chinese Communist Party plans to unilaterally impose national security legislation on Hong Kong,” they wrote.
Responding to the proposals for the new security law, they added: “There has been been international outrage at this flagrant breach of the Sino-British joint declaration.
“When it comes to Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ model, many of our international partners take their cue from the British government. I’m sure you would agree, as a co-signatory of the Sino-British joint declaration the UK must be seen to be leading and coordinating the international response to this crisis.
“Despite claims by the Chinese foreign ministry to the contrary, we believe the UK continues to have a moral and legal obligation to the people of Hong Kong. As events in Hong Kong develop over the weeks ahead, we hope you personally will recognise the pronounced need for international leadership from the UK government on this matter and act accordingly.”
On Sunday, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, confirmed the UK will “provide a path to citizenship” for people in Hong Kong who hold BNO passports by giving them the right to apply to study and work for extendable 12-month period.
“We, as part of the handover, the package of measures that were put together with the joint declaration back in 1984, we agreed this BNO passport holder status,” Mr Raab told the BBC.
“What we are saying now is, if China follows through with this national security legislation – which, very clearly, violates, not just the autonomy that is guaranteed under Chinese law, that the Chinese agreed under the joint declaration as a matter of international law to uphold – it also undermines the freedoms that were also protected in the same way.”
He continued: “If it sees to follow through on this legislation we will give those people who hold BNO passports the right to come to the UK, we will lift that six-month restriction, we will allow them to come to the UK to live, to apply to study and work for extendable 12-month periods and that will provide a path to citizenship.
“I’m a child of a refugee. We have got people around the Cabinet table with similar stories. We are not going to turn a blind eye. We are not going to look away from our responsibilities from the people of Hong Kong.”