Johnson pledges to give Hong Kong citizens UK rights after China’s ‘breach’

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Boris Johnson has pledged to extend the right of Hong Kong citizens to live and work in the UK after accusing China of a “clear and serious breach” of a treaty with Britain.

The Prime Minister on Wednesday accused Beijing of violating the former British colony’s degree of autonomy by imposing a much-criticised national security law on the territory.

He told MPs he would introduce a new route for those with British national (overseas) status to live and work in the UK and apply for citizenship, which could potentially extend the right for nearly three million people.

Mr Johnson followed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in accusing China of breaching the treaty that aimed to smooth the transition when the territory was handed back to China in 1997.

  • Asia Correspondent Debi Edward gives an update from Beijing

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson told the Commons: “The enactment and imposition of this national security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

“It violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and is in direct conflict with Hong Kong Basic Law.

“We made clear that if China continues down this path we would introduce a new route for those with British national (overseas) status to enter the UK, granting them limited leave to remain, with the ability to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship – and that is precisely what we will do.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has accused China of a “clear and serious violation” of a treaty forged with the UK by imposing national security legislation on Hong Kong.

The Cabinet member said the UK will “honour” its commitment to citizens of the former British colony, which could extend the right for nearly three million Hong Kongers to come to the UK.

Mr Raab on Wednesday said Beijing had breached the Joint Declaration signed between the UK and China to protect freedoms in the territory by enacting the controversial legislation.

His statement came after Hong Kong police made their first arrests under the law, including one person said to have displayed a sign with the Union Jack and calling for Hong Kong’s independence.

Taking effect on Tuesday night, the law makes activities deemed subversive or secessionist punishable by imprisonment. It is seen as targeting the anti-government demonstrations.

A man carries his son across a road while riot police push back protesters on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China from Britain Credit: AP

In a statement outside the Foreign Office, Mr Raab told reporters the UK had carefully assessed the legislation since its publication on Tuesday night.

“It constitutes a clear violation of the autonomy of Hong Kong and a direct threat to the freedoms of its people, and therefore I’m afraid to say it is a clear and serious violation of the Joint Declaration – the treaty between the United Kingdom and China,” he said.