China has threatened Britain to take countermeasures in the dispute over Hong Kong. The government in Beijing sharply rejected British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s naturalization offer to up to three million former British subjects in the former crown colony.
China’s foreign minister spokesman Zhao Lijian confirmed on Thursday in front of the press in Beijing that the Chinese position that they should not have a right of residence in Great Britain. All Hong Kong citizens are Chinese.
The background to the British offer is the enactment of the National Security Law in the Chinese Special Administrative Region. The far-reaching and vaguely worded Beijing decree is directed against separatism, undermining state power, terrorism and “secret collusion” with forces abroad that Beijing regards as hostile to China. It provides for life imprisonment as the maximum sentence. It also turns against foreigners and enables deliveries to China.
Spontaneous, unauthorized protests against the security law on Wednesday arrested more than 370 people in Hong Kong, police reported. Ten were arrested for violating the new law. It came into force on Wednesday, the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997.
The British government appointed Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming to the Foreign Office in London to protest the law. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab accused the communist leadership in Beijing of using the law to strangle the previously guaranteed freedoms in Hong Kong. “This is a serious and deeply troubling step,” said Raab in Parliament in London.
Prime Minister Johnson had underlined his threat to pave the way for former subjects in Hong Kong to become British citizens, given the new security law. It is about those who have the status of British Overseas Citizen (BNO). Around 350,000 Hong Kong citizens have this type of ID. In theory, however, just under three million are entitled to it. Instead of the previous six months, they should be allowed to stay in Great Britain for up to five years – with labor law and the prospect of naturalization.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman protested: “All Hong Kong compatriots, including those with overseas passports, are Chinese citizens.” Before the return of the crown colony, Britain had clearly undertaken not to grant them a right of residence. A change in this policy violates international law and fundamental norms of international relations. “The Chinese side strongly condemns this and reserves the right to have further answers.”
The new security law had met with harsh criticism in Hong Kong and internationally. China’s state security organs have far-reaching powers in what is actually an autonomous Chinese special administrative region. Although the seven million Hong Kongers were guaranteed freedom and autonomy when they changed sovereignty in 1997, Chinese state security organs will have free rein in Hong Kong and can investigate independently.
The British Prime Minister saw a “clear and serious breach” of the “joint declaration” with China on the return at the time. The law violates Hong Kong’s autonomy rights and is contrary to the Basic Law of the Special Administrative Region, Johnson said.
In response, the Australian government is also considering issuing special visas to Hong Kong citizens that could be endangered by the Security Act. The situation in Hong Kong is “very worrying,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Canberra. His government is “very active” thinking about ways to protect Hong Kong. In any case, the relationship between Australia and its most important economic partner China is tense.
Seven police officers were injured in the Hong Kong protests on Wednesday. An official was wounded with a stabbing weapon, the police said. As the South China Morning Post reported, the 24-year-old attacker was later arrested on board an airplane before departing for the UK.
Video: Security law: Britain eases naturalization for Hong Kongers (Euronews)
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