On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson published an op-ed in Hong Kong's largest English-language newspaper, South China Morning Post which directly warned Beijing against imposing a national security law on Hong Kong by threatening major reform of visa rights for some Hong Kong residents.
“If China introduces its National Security Act [on Hong Kong]the UK Government will change our immigration rules and allow any holder of [British National Overseas] passport from Hong Kong to come to the UK for a renewable 12-month period and obtain additional immigration rights, including the right to work, which could put them on a path to citizenship, "Johnson wrote, claiming the move would be" one of the biggest changes to our British visa system. "
There have been calls in recent weeks, from the British Parliament and elsewhere, for the British government to respond to what critics see as China's erosion of the" one country, two systems principle adopted when the UK returned Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1
Under that principle, Beijing promised that Hong Kong's "current social and economic systems" would remain unchanged for 50 years and that Hong Kong would maintain a "high degree of autonomy."
Beijing promise was enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration – a binding UN treaty – as a chorus of international observers say Beijing has now violated by unilaterally introducing a law against "treason" in Hong Kong.
"Many people in Hong Kong fear their lifestyle – which China promised to uphold – is threatened, and if China continues to justify its fear, Britain could not shrug and walk away in good conscience; commitments and provide an alternative, "Johnson said.
British National Overseas (BNO) passports were created in 1985 especially for Hong Kong citizens born before Hong Kong's surrender in 1997. However, BNO passports afford holders few rights as "British citizens." Currently, BNO holders can visit the UK for six months without a visa and are denied a right of residence – meaning that BNO holders must go through regular immigration channels if they want to settle permanently in the UK
According to Johnson, there are currently around 350,000 BNO -owners in Hong Kong and an additional 2.5 million people who "would be eligible to apply." Many BNO owners have let their passports go, since having one offers few benefits. However, as both protest protests and the established response intensified last year, applications for BNO passport renewals increased. There were 120,000 applications last year, compared to 14,000 in 2018.
However, Johnson's announcement Wednesday does not come from calls by any MP to grant BNO's right to stay. Johnson also does not say whether family members of GNP holders will also be eligible to apply for GNP status. (Currently they are not.)
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