London, July 3 (IANS) China says the UK will “bear all consequences” if it grants residency to Hongkongers fleeing a harsh new national security law.
On Thursday, at a regular press briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian said: “China strongly condemns this and reserves the right to take further measures. The British side will bear all the consequences”.
Zhao’s comments came after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, both said UK would honour a promise to offer nearly 3 million residents of the former British colony, those with British national overseas status (BNO), the right to settle in the UK.
China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, also said any move to grant residency to BNO holders would be a violation of agreements between the two countries. He added: “All Chinese compatriots residing in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals, whether or not they are holders of the British dependent territories citizens passport or the British national (overseas) passport.”
In a statement posted on the Chinese embassy’s website on Thursday, Liu 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. We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures. The UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of ‘supervision’ over Hong Kong.”
UK’s Foreign Office permanent secretary Sir Simon McDonald summoned Liu and told him Beijing’s imposition of the new security law on Hong Kong breached the Sino-British joint declaration.
Following his visit, Liu tweeted: “After turbulent months in the latter half of last year, the national security law will bring the order in stability to Hong Kong and get its economy back on track.”
Fearing that Beijing’s new security law will be used to arrest pro-democracy protestors and activists, human rights advocates from all over the world have called on other countries to give asylum to fleeing Hongkongers.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country is “prepared to step up and provide support”, and is working on a scheme to provide a safe haven to Hong Kong residents after China’s “very concerning” decision.
After the sedition law came into effect, a 15-year-old girl, who waved a Hong Kong independence flag was arrested.
As thousands protested against the new law, more than 400 people were detained on Wednesday, on unlawful assembly and national security related charges.
Breaching the Sino-British joint declaration which aimed to smooth the transition when the territory was handed back to China in 1997, the UK government believes Beijing’s new law gives authorities sweeping powers to crack down on dissent, and a new level of Chinese control over the semi-autonomous territory.
Boris Johnson has said he will honour a promise to change immigration rules to allow holders of BNO passports, as well as those eligible for the passport, to reside in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship. As of February 2020, there were nearly 350,000 BNO passport holders, while the government estimated there were around 2.9 million BNOs living in Hong Kong.