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Hong Kong

UK offers path to citizenship for Hong Kongers targeted by China security law

Hong Kong police detain a pro-democracy protester during a rally against the new national security law, held on the 23rd anniversary of British handover to China. 1 July 2020.
Hong Kong police detain a pro-democracy protester during a rally against the new national security law, held on the 23rd anniversary of British handover to China. 1 July 2020. AFP
Text by: Agencies
3 min

Britain is to offer up to three million Hong Kongers residency in the UK with the chance to apply for citizenship, after China imposed its new security law, which activists say erodes freedoms. Beijing is facing a groundswell of criticism after hundreds of protesters were arrested at a rally to mark 23 years since the end of British rule on Wednesday.

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Thousands gathered for the annual pro-democracy rally to mark the handover anniversary, defying a ban by authorities who cited restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people because of Covid-19.

Residents blocked roads and brandished banners to voice their opposition to the the new security bill introduced by China on Tuesday.

Hong Kong police used water cannon, tear gas and pepper spray on demonstrators and arrested nearly 400 people.

Ten people were accused of violating the new security law. About 360 others were detained.

Seven officers were injured, including one officer who was stabbed in the arm by "rioters holding sharp objects", police said.

Woman reacts to tear gas sprayed by police at a pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong, on the 23rd anniversary of British handover to China. 1 July 2020.
Woman reacts to tear gas sprayed by police at a pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong, on the 23rd anniversary of British handover to China. 1 July 2020. DALE DE LA REY / AFP

China's new law targets secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces with punishments up to life in prison.

Acts including damaging public transport facilities can be considered terrorism.

Beijing said the security law was necessary to stop the type of protests seen in Hong Kong throughout much of 2019.

United Kingdom, Australia to offer safe haven

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the passing of the law was a "clear and serious breach" of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration.

Under this declaration, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 with certain freedoms guaranteed for at least 50 years under the "one country, two systems" agreement.

Johnson said the UK would offer up to three million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle there and ultimately apply for full British citizenship.

China reacted angrily, threatening "corresponding measures" to block the citizenship plan.

An offer of safe haven was also forthcoming from Australia where Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there were proposals that will "soon be considered by cabinet".

A proposed bill from US lawmakers offering sanctuary to Hong Kong residents has received widespread bipartisan support.

Taiwan has opened an office to help Hong Kongers wanting to leave.

International condemnation

Following the approval of the security law, the US House of Representatives unanimously approved new sanctions penalising banks that do business with Chinese officials. It will have to be approved by the Senate before going to President Donald Trump.

The European Union Council President Charles Michel said it "deplored" the law - adding that it had a "detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and rule of law".

"It will undermine trust for the principle of 'one country, two systems'" said Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said.

Despite the widespread condemnation, more than 50 countries, led by Cuba, supported China at the UN this week.

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