China ‘should take a step back’ on Hong Kong, Dominic Raab says

‘We are setting out our position clearly and working with our international partners and the ball is in the court of the government in China’

Kim Sengupta
Diplomatic Editor
Tuesday 02 June 2020 17:22 BST
Police out in force as Hong Kong protests continue

The UK will facilitate citizenship for Hong Kong residents who hold British National Overseas passports if China passes new security laws eroding the former colony’s autonomy, the Foreign Secretary has confirmed.

Dominic Raab also said the UK will also enact a version of the US’s Magnitsky act (named after a Russian lawyer who died in custody in Moscow) to sanction officials who may have been involved in human rights abuses in Hong Kong during crackdowns on protests.

Mr Raab said the government is seeking to build an international coalition to pressurise Beijing from imposing the laws that will be a “clear violation of international obligations including the ones specifically made to the United Kingdom” and be also against “China’s own basic law”.

A former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “One Country, Two Systems” agreement, Hong Kong was meant to be guaranteed a high degree of autonomy.

China’s largely ceremonial parliament voted last week to bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and develop and enact national security legislation on its own for the semi-autonomous territory. Critics, including governments in Britain, the US and Canada, are worried that the laws would erode liberties such as free speech and opposition political activities.

“It would up-end China’s ‘One Country, Two Systems’ paradigm,” Raab said. “And it would be a clear violation of China’s international obligations, including those made specifically to the United Kingdom under the Joint Declaration.”

Raab told the Commons: “We are setting out our position clearly and working with our international partners and the ball is in the court of the government in China. It has a choice to make here, it can cross the Rubicon and violate the autonomy and the rights of the people of Hong Kong or it can step back, understand the widespread concern of the international community and live up to its responsibilities.

“We don’t seek to prevent China’s rise, far from it, we welcome China as a leading member of the international community and we look to engage with China on everything from trade to climate change.”

However, Mr Raab acknowledged that there was now little chance of Beijing pulling back from the legislation and the fate of the people of Hong Kong needs to be considered.

“The UK will not look the other way if China continues down this path”, he wanted to stress.



The Foreign Secretary continued: “the United Kingdom has historic responsibilities, a duty I would say, to the people of Hong Kong. So I can tell the House now that if China enacts this law, we will change the arrangements for British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong”, said Mr Raab.

“If China follows through with its proposed legislation, we will put in place new arrangements to allow BNOs to come to the UK without the current six-month limit, enabling them to live and apply to study and work for extendable periods of 12 months, thereby also providing a pathway to citizenship.”

In its current form the proposal will apply to around 350,000 residents of the former colony, along with their dependants. However, the government stated last week that the offer would extend to all Hong Kong who are eligible for the BN(O) status but had not renewed their passports after expiry raising the numbers to almost 2.9 million people.

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