China is warning that the United Kingdom is opening itself up to serious “consequences” if it follows through on a plan to offer refuge and a path to citizenship for nearly three million Hong Kong citizens should China implement a restrictive national security law.
China believes that “Hong Kong people who were born in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals,” said Chen Wen, Minister and First Staff Member of Chinese Embassy in London, in a BBC interview.
“There will be consequences, that’s for sure,” Wen said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the proposal on Tuesday, saying that if necessary, Britain will allow Hong Kong residents who hold British National Overseas passports to come to the UK for a “renewable period of 12 months and be given further immigration rights, including the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship.” The move would be “one of the biggest changes in our visa system in British history,” Johnson said.
The prime minister declared that Beijing’s new national security law violates the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the agreement the U.K. reached with China after Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
China warned Britain to abandon its “colonial state of mind” regarding Hong Kong.
China last month approved national security laws, which have yet to be implemented, that would allow Beijing to wield expanded power over Hong Kong. Pro-Democracy activists and other critics say the national security laws would effectively scrap the “one country, two systems” policy that has allowed Hong Kong its political freedoms and civil liberties despite still being technically governed by China.
Wen denied that China was threatening anything but warned that the UK’s move would be “damaging” to Britain’s “image of abiding by its own commitments” as well as to the “entire relationship.”
“I’m just saying this is not the correct decision, and it will be damaging to Hong Kong’s stability,” she said.