Reiterating “deep concern” over China passing a security law applicable to Hong Kong, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said its text will now be scrutinised, recalling his earlier decision to offer a path to citizenship to residents of the former British colony.
Johnson’s remarks following reports from Beijing that the law had been passed revived concerns about the UK allowing the Chinese company Huawei in its forthcoming 5G infrastructure. There is growing opposition to the company after the US banned it.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Johnson have previously committed to offering nearly 2 million holders in Hong Kong of British Nationals (Overseas) status a path to full British citizenship if Beijing passed and implemented the law.
According to the British perspective, the new law goes against guarantees in the Sino-British agreements before the 1997 handover that political and other freedoms of the citizens will be preserved for 50 years.
Johnson said: “I am deeply concerned at the law being passed. We will be looking at it carefully and scrutinise it if it is in conflict with the declaration with China. We have a duty to BNOs in Hong Kong as I said earlier”.
On the UK keeping Huawei away from the 5G infrastructure as part of its response to the law, he added: “I am not a Sinophone, I won’t be drawn into Sinophobia, but we need to strike a balance to protect critical infrastructure from hostile vendors”.
Raab previously announced the path to British citizenship in a statement to the House of Commons: “The House will recall that BNO status was conferred on British Dependent Territories Citizens connected with Hong Kong as part of the package of arrangements that accompanied the Joint Declaration in 1984, in preparation for the handover of the territory”.
“And under that status, currently, BNO passport holders are already entitled to UK consular assistance in third countries. And the British government also provides people with BNO passports visa-free entry into the UK for up to six months as visitors”.
“If China follows through with its proposed legislation, we will put in place new arrangements to allow BNOs to come to the UK without the current 6 month limit, enabling them to live and apply to study and work for extendable periods of 12 months, thereby also providing a pathway to citizenship”.