After the UK said they will open up a path to citizenship for 3 million Hong Kong residents because of a controversial new Chinese security law, Beijing has threatened the UK with “corresponding measures.”
China warned the UK on Thursday it could retaliate with “corresponding measures” following the UK’s decision to extend a broader path to British citizenship for residents of Hong Kong.
The Chinese embassy in London issued a statement stressing that “all Chinese compatriots living in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals.”
“If the British side makes unilateral changes to the relevant practice, it will breach its own position and pledges as well as international law and basic norms governing international relations,” the statement continued. “We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures.”
In a press conference, a Beijing spokesperson “condemned” the UK’s decision and said they were not keeping their promises on Hong Kong. The spokesperson warned of “consequences.”
The Hong Kong police made hundreds of arrests Wednesday under a controversial new so-called security law in the Chinese-administrated area. Some were arrested for waving flags or “conducting themselves with intent such as secession or subversion.” Hong Kong has seen widespread pro-independence and pro-democracy protests over the last year.
‘The flame of freedom is precious’
The Boris Johnson said Hong Kong’s freedoms were being violated by a new security law and those affected would be offered a “route” out of the former UK colony.
About 350,000 UK passport holders, and 2.6 million others eligible, will be able to come to the UK for five years.
And after a further year, they will be able to apply for citizenship.
British National Overseas Passport holders in Hong Kong were granted special status in the 1980s but currently have restricted rights and are only entitled to visa-free access to the UK for six months.
Under the government’s plans, all British Overseas Nationals and their dependants will be given right to remain in the UK, including the right to work and study, for five years. At this point, they will be able to apply for settled status, and after a further year, seek citizenship.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab pledged that Britain will offer citizenship to around 3 million Hong Kong residents who have British National Overseas passports or who are eligible for one.
"It constitutes a clear violation of the autonomy of Hong Kong, a direct threat to the freedoms of its people, and therefore i'm afraid to say is a serious violation of the joint declaration".@DominicRaab outlines the UK government position on China's new national security law. pic.twitter.com/RQLPISJhha— Foreign Office 🇬🇧 (@foreignoffice) July 1, 2020
“We stand with the people of Hong Kong,” junior minister Simon Clarke told broadcaster Sky News on Thursday. “The flame of freedom is very precious and we made guarantees to those people when we left Hong Kong and so we will do whatever is required, that is within our power, to make sure that this is upheld.”
Australia, Taiwan responded
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced Thursday that his government is considering offering “safe haven visas” to Hong Kong residents who may be in danger due to the so-called security law. China’s Foreign Ministry quickly issued a statement urging Australia not to interfere in China’s internal affairs.
Hong Kong was under British jurisdiction until 1997 when it was handed over to China. A key part of the handover deal was that Beijing would preserve the city’s judicial and legislative autonomy, a promise that critics say has been violated.
Taiwan has warned citizens against unnecessary travel to Hong Kong and their de facto consulate in the city described the new law as “the most outrageous in history.” They said they received over 180 inquiries from Hong Kongers about their legal status in Taiwan on the first day of the law being in place.