London: The Beijing ambassador to London on Monday accused Britain of “serious interference” in China’s internal affairs “for its response to a controversial national security law in Hong Kong. The UK government has said it will offer Hong Kong residents a broader path to citizenship in response to the new security law for the former British territory.
The move could pave the way for more than three million Hong Kong people to move to Britain. But Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said Beijing expressed “serious concern and strong opposition” to the proposals, arguing that London “has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or supervisory rights over Hong Kong.”
“These measures constitute serious interference in China’s internal affairs and openly trample on the basic rules that govern international relations,” he told reporters. Last week, China enacted the security law for the restless city of about 7.5 million people, prohibiting acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
The legislation, which has sent a wave of fear through the territory, has criminalized dissenting opinions such as calls for independence or autonomy. Britain is among the western nations that move to offer refuge to millions of Hong Kong people in response.
London has said it has a duty to care for residents of a colony that it returned to China in 1997, under an agreement designed to preserve its autonomy and freedoms for 50 years. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament last week that he will allow anyone with British (foreign) citizen (BNO) status, and their dependents, to come to Britain and eventually receive citizenship.
Around 300,000 Hong Kong people have BNO passports and another 2.6 million are eligible to apply. However, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab admitted last week that Britain could be powerless if China moves to avoid a mass exodus.
Johnson’s spokesman reiterated on Monday that the law was “a clear and serious violation” of the 1984 Sino-British joint declaration governing Hong Kong’s return to the Chinese government.
“We said that we would make changes to the BNO’s immigration rights if China implemented this legislation and we kept that promise,” he added.
Liu said that Beijing was considering what reciprocal actions to take.
“We have to wait and see. We have to decide our countermeasures according to the actual actions that the British side will take.”