UK could change Immigration Rules for Hong Kong citizens if China passes new laws
UK could change Immigration Rules for Hong Kong citizens if China passes new law
Britain will change the country’s Immigration Rules to offer millions of people in Hong Kong “a route to citizenship” if China imposes new security laws, Boris Johnson said.
Writing for the Times, Prime Minister Johnson said the UK would “have no choice” but to uphold its ties with the territory.
The announcement comes as China faces mounting criticism over its planned law, which many people in Hong Kong fear could end their unique freedoms, which the rest of China does not enjoy.
The UK government has held talks with allies including the US and Australia about what to do if China imposes the new law – which would make it a crime to undermine Beijing’s authority – and people start fleeing Hong Kong.
In the Times, the Mr Johnson stated that if China passes the law, people in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports will be allowed to come to the UK for 12 months without a visa. Currently they are allowed to come for six months.
Currently, approximately 350,000 people in Hong Kong have a BNO passport, with a further 2.6 million others also eligible.
Passport-holders would also be given further immigration rights, including the right to work.
These rights Mr Johnson said could place them on a route to citizenship,”.
Mr Johnson added that the immigration changes “would amount to one of the biggest changes in our visa system in British history”.
“If it proves necessary, the British government will take this step and take it willingly.
“Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life, which China pledged to uphold, is under threat.
“If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honour our obligations and provide an alternative.”
The last British governor of Hong Kong, Lord Patten, said the offer of support from the UK government was “morally and politically right”.
He accused China’s ruling Communist Party of employing “bullying” tactics, adding: “Sooner or later with a bully you have to stand up to them, otherwise you’ll get knocked about.”
Asked whether the UK was entering a new Cold War with China, Lord Patten told the BBC’s World at One: “I think we’re entering a period of realism with China…
“This is not us against China, it’s the way in which the Chinese Communist regime can’t stand us, and they’ve cracked down on Hong Kong because it represents all the things which [President] Xi Jinping dislikes.”
As part of an agreement signed at the time, it enjoys some freedoms not seen in mainland China – and these are set out in a mini-constitution called the Basic Law.
The UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged China to reconsider its plans which, he said, would threaten Hong Kong’s autonomy and prosperity.
MPs from Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have urged the United Nations to appoint a special envoy to Hong Kong to monitor how the new law affects human rights.
This new policy is in stark contrast with the treatment of Hong Kong citizens – when the Immigration Rules were changed to prevent mass immigration to the UK – in the years before the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.
BNO passports were granted to all Hong Kong citizens born before the Chinese handover in 1997. Whilst the second-class passports allowed the holder some protection from the UK foreign service, they did not give the right to live or work in Britain.
Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens, many of them wealthy business people, chose to take their money and settle in countries like Canada and Australia where they felt more welcome.
It remains to be seen whether or not today’s citizens will choose to settle and invest in the UK when other countries, such as Cyprus offer a guaranteed route to citizenship in the European Union.
The Cypriot immigration policy and legal framework now enable Non-EU applicants to obtain Cypriot citizenship on an expedited basis – fast.
If you would like to know more about the Cyprus golden visa programme visit: http://eugoldenvisaprogramme.com