China is urging the UK to stop “interfering” in Hong Kong’s affairs after Boris Johnson’s government gave millions of citizens the chance to move to Britain.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the citizenship offer, describing the new security legislation as a “clear and serious breach” of the deal that saw Hong Kong pass from the UK to China in 1997.
But on Thursday, the Chinese Embassy in London told the UK that it “firmly opposes” the offer to allow more than 2.9 million Hong Kong citizens who hold British National Overseas (BNO) passports to apply to live in the UK, saying it would be a breach in international law.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in the UK said: “If the British side makes unilateral changes to the relevant practice, it will breach its own position and pledges as well as international law and basic norms governing international relations.
“We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures. We urge the British side to view objectively and fairly the national security legislation for Hong Kong, respect China’s position and concerns, refrain from interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any way.”
On Wednesday evening, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab admitted that the government would be unable to force China into allowing those with BNO passports to move to the UK.
The comments from the Chinese Embassy come as Australia’s prime minister said he was also considering offering a safe haven for those in Hong Kong.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Scott Morrison said: “The basic law and the safeguards that were put in place with the handover, we would expect to be upheld. I think that’s a very reasonable position and a very consistent position for the government.
“We are considering very actively and there are proposals that I asked to be brought forward several weeks ago.”
Just hours after China’s security legislation came into effect in Hong Kong on Wednesday, police began making arrests under the new law.
A man was detained for carrying a flag that called for independence, while a woman was also held for carrying a sign bearing the same message with a British flag.
Those who break the law could face life in prison, as China seeks to crack down on subversion and secessionist activity in the region.
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