U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that his country will offer 3 million Hong Kong residents refuge and a path to citizenship in the United Kingdom in retaliation to China’s new national security law, which effectively ends autonomy in the city.
According to Business Insider, Johnson told the House of Commons Wednesday that the law is in violation of the Sino-British joint declaration, which was signed by the U.K. and China in 1984.
The new law, which was met with global opposition, outlaws “foreign interference” and cracks down on pro-democracy demonstrations within the city. On Wednesday, it was put into effect as police arrested nearly 200 Hong Kong residents after thousands participated in a rally against the legislation.
Under the U.K. order, Hong Kong citizens eligible to apply for a British national overseas passport, along with their dependents, will be able to seek 5 years of limited right to remain in the U.K. — that number amounts to about 3 million.
After their 5-year stay and an additional year of settled status, arrivals will be eligible to apply for full U.K. citizenship.
“The enactment and imposition of this national security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British joint declaration,” the prime minister told Parliament. “It violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and is in direct conflict with Hong Kong basic law. The law also threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration.
“We made clear that if China continued down this path we would introduce a new route for those with British national overseas status to enter the U.K., granting them limited right to remain with the ability to live and work in the U.K. and thereafter to apply for citizenship — and that is precisely what we will do now,” he added.
According to BBC, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said there would be no limit on numbers or quotas, telling members that the U.K. “will not look the other way on Hong Kong” and “will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people.”
Pro-democracy legislators in Hong Kong sounded the alarm over the new law last month, saying it marked the end of the “one country, two systems” agreement between Beijing and the autonomous city.
Soon after, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed, officially declaring that with the imposition of the new law, Hong Kong could no longer be considered autonomous.