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Addressing MPs in the Commons on Wednesday, the Foreign Secretary said China’s latest move against Hong Kong threatens the “strangulation of Hong Kong’s freedoms”. Dominic Raab said: “As I feared when I addressed the House on 2 June, yesterday the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing adopted a wide-ranging national security law for Hong Kong. This is a grave and deeply disturbing step.”
He added: “Today I have the depressing but necessary duty to report to the House that the enactment of this legislation imposed by the authorities in Beijing on the people of Hong Kong constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Joint Declaration.”
The Foreign Secretary warned China the UK will not “duck our historic responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong”.
He added the Government will continue to speak to international partners about what more to do to fix the issue.
Dominic Raab added that the legislation contains measures that “directly threaten the freedoms and rights” of the people of Hong Kong.
He said: “First, the legislation violates the high degree of autonomy, executive and legitimate powers and independent judicial authority provided for in paragraph 3 of the joint declaration.”
Mr Raab told MPs that the legislation also contains measures “that directly threaten the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration”.
He said the measures “represent a flagrant assault on freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful protest for the people of Hong Kong”.
Mr Raab said: “Third, the legislation provides that Hong Kong’s chief executive rather than the chief justice will appoint judges to hear national security cases, a move that clearly risks undermining the independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary.”
The Foreign Secretary continued: “For our part, the Prime Minister and the Government are crystal clear, the UK will keep its word.
“We will live up to our responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong and I can tell the House that after further detailed discussions with (my right honourable friend) the Home Secretary, I can now confirm we will proceed to honour our commitment to change the arrangements for those holding BNO status.
“And I can update honourable members that we have worked with ministers right across Whitehall and we have now developed proposals for a bespoke immigration route for BNOs and their dependants.
“We will grant BNOs five years’ limited leave to remain, with a right to work or study.
“After these five years they’ll be able to apply for settled status and after a further 12 months with settled status, they will be able to apply for citizenship.
“This is a special bespoke set of arrangements, developed for the unique circumstances we face and in light of our historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong.
“All of those with BNO status will be eligible as will their dependents who are usually resident in Hong Kong and the Home Office will put in place a simple streamlined application process and I can reassure (honourable members) there will be no quotas on numbers.”
Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested nearly 200 people as protesters took to the streets in defiance of sweeping security legislation introduced by China that they say is aimed at snuffing out dissent.
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“The enactment and imposition of this national security law constitute a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament on Wednesday.
Johnson said Britain would stand by its pledge to give British National Overseas (BNO) passport-holders in Hong Kong a path to British citizenship, allowing them to settle in the United Kingdom.
Almost 3 million Hong Kong residents are eligible for the passport. There were 349,881 holders of the passports as of February.
Hong Kong’s autonomy was guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” agreement enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed by then Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Hong Kong was handed back to China on July 1, 1997, after more than 150 years of British rule – imposed after Britain defeated China in the First Opium War. China had never recognised the “unequal treaties” allowing Britain’s rule of Hong Kong island, the Kowloon peninsula and later its lease of the rural New Territories.
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