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Boris Johnson has said the government will extend the right for nearly three million people from Hong Kong to come to the UK, after China imposed new national security legislation in the former British colony.
Speaking during PMQs on Wednesday, the prime minister said the legislation “constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British joint declaration”.
“We made clear that if China continued down this path we would introduce a new route for those with British national overseas status to enter the UK granting them limited leave to remain with the ability to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship and that is precisely what we will do now,” Johnson said.
The prime minister told MPs the law “violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and is in direct conflict with Hong Kong basic law”.
The UK handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997. Anyone born in the territory before then is eligible for a British National (Overseas) passport - or BNO.
The new law, which took effect on Tuesday night, makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs.
Any person taking part in secessionist activities, such as shouting slogans or holding up banners and flags urging for the city’s independence, is in violation of the law regardless of whether violence is used.
Johnson’s intervention came after the first arrests were made under the law, including one person said to have displayed a sign with the Union Jack and calling for Hong Kong’s independence.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused Beijing of a “grave and deeply disturbing” breach of the treaty which “threatens the strangulation” of Hong Kongs’s freedoms.
He told MPs the “bespoke” new arrangement to be implemented in the coming months would grant BNOs five years’ limited leave to remain in the UK with the ability to live and work.
They would then be eligible to apply for settled status and would be able to apply for citizenship after 12 months with that status.
He said there would be no quotas on numbers. As of February, there were nearly 350,000 BNO passport holders, while the Government estimates there are around 2.9 million BNOs living in Hong Kong.