Hong Kong dispute between China and Britain flared up

Hong Kong dispute between China and Britain flared up

A fierce dispute between China and Britain over how to deal with former British subjects has flared up following the enactment of a sharp national security law in Hong Kong.

© Photo: Alda Tsang / SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire / dpa
Protesters protested the security law.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s offer to naturalize up to three million residents of the former British Crown Colony has met with fierce opposition in Beijing.

More than 370 people were arrested in Hong Kong following unauthorized protests against the security law, police reported. Ten were arrested for violating the new decree. It came into force on Wednesday, the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China. The far-reaching and vaguely formulated law from Beijing is directed against separatism, undermining state power, terrorism and “secret collusion” with anti-China forces abroad.

The British government appointed Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming to the State Department 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.

China, on the other hand, spoke of Britain’s interference in internal affairs and opposed British plans to allow millions of Hong Kong citizens to naturalize themselves. “All compatriots who live in Hong Kong are Chinese citizens,” said Foreign Minister Zhao Lijian earlier.

So far, Hong Kong citizens have been able to stay in the UK for up to six months without a visa if they have British National Overseas (BNO) status. Around 350,000 Hong Kong citizens currently have this type of ID. In theory, however, almost three million would be entitled to apply for such a pass. According to the offer, they will even be allowed to stay and work in the UK for up to five years – with the prospect of naturalization.

China, however, regards the BNO passport only as a “travel document”, which should not allow a longer right of residence in Great Britain. The British offer violates agreements between China and Great Britain, according to which there should be no right of residence for BNO passport holders, the Chinese newspaper “Global Times” quoted a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London.

Should the British side insist on unilaterally changing practice, it would be a breach of commitments and international law. The British offer to the Hong Kongers also does not match “the spirit of the Sino-British joint declaration” for the return of the crown colony to China, the spokesman was quoted as saying.

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 in Hong Kong will be able to carry out arbitrary investigations and exercise sovereignty in the future.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson saw a “clear and serious breach” of the “joint declaration” with China on the return of Hong Kong. The law violates Hong Kong’s autonomy rights and is contrary to the Basic Law of the Special Administrative Region, Johnson said. It provides for the maximum sentence of life imprisonment, also applies to foreigners and enables extradition to China.

Seven police officers were injured in Wednesday’s protests in Hong Kong. An official was even injured with a stabbing weapon, the police reported. 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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