China has urged the UK to stop “interfering” in Hong Kong’s affairs, warning that there would be consequences if the British government offers almost 3m citizens visas and a path to citizenship.
The Chinese embassy in London said today that it “firmly opposes” Britain’s offer for Hong Kong citizens with British National Overseas passports to apply to move to the UK, saying that it breaches international law.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the offer of a route to citizenship for 2.9m Hong Kong residents following Beijing’s introduction of controversial new security legislation covering the territory aimed at snuffing out dissent.
Johnson has described the new law as a “clear breach” of the agreement under which Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.
A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said this morning that Britain would bear all the consequences for any move to offer Hong Kong residents the chance to settle in Britain.
Speaking at a daily briefing, Zhao Lijian said Beijing reserved the right to act against the UK on the issue, but did not specify what countermeasures China might take.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the financial hub following the introduction of the new law, which is pushing China’s freest city on to a more authoritarian path.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have said the legislation is aimed at clamping down on a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights or freedoms, but critics fear it will crush the city’s pro-democracy movement and curb freedoms including its independent judiciary and right to protest.
Police arrested a 24-year-old man at the city’s airport in the early hours of Thursday on suspicion of attacking and wounding an officer during protests against the legislation.
Police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people on Wednesday as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the sweeping security legislation introduced by China to snuff out dissent.
British housing minister Simon Clarke said this morning that the UK government will do whatever is needed to support the people of Hong Kong.
“We stand with the people of Hong Kong,” he told Sky News. “The flame of freedom is very precious and we made guarantees to those people when we left Hong Kong and so we will do whatever is required that is within our power to make sure that this is upheld.”