Comments by Sanwar Ali:
Not surprisingly since the introduction of the new Security Laws there have been riots in Hong Kong and about four hundred arrests. Compared to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 the level of brutality has been at a much lower level. 300,000 troops were used in 1989 against the protesters by the Chinese Communist Government with perhaps over 10,000 people being killed.
It is said that there are about a million people currently being held in Chinese re-education camps. Some have called these “concentration camps”. Huge numbers of Muslim Uyghurs and others are held in these camps. Will those defying China in Hong Kong end up in these camps as well?
The UK is offering visas. However, will those British National Overseas citizens (BNO) in Hong Kong who are perhaps being persecuted by the Chinese Government all be able to afford to pay sky high UK visa fees? Will the Chinese Government takes steps to make sure that Hong Kong Chinese will be unable to pay these fees? We will have to wait for further details of the UK visa scheme offering a path to full UK citizenship.
China’s imposition of new security laws that restrict Hong Kong freedoms has prompted Boris Johnson to solidify his UK visa offer for 3 million Hong Kong residents, which offers a path to UK citizenship. Hong Kong citizens with British National Overseas (BNO) status, along with their dependants, will be given access to five-year work or study visas.
Towards the end of the five-year period, those who take up the offer will be able to apply for UK settled status (a form of permanent residence). After 12 months of settled status in the UK, it will be possible to apply for citizenship, freeing people from UK immigration restrictions.
Under China’s highly controversial security laws, it has been made a criminal offence for anyone to criticise the Chinese government, with potential jail sentences of 10 years to life for those who violate the law.
Chinese security agency on Hong Kong soil
For the first time ever, the Chinese government will establish its own security agency on Hong Kong soil.
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab slammed Beijing, saying that the communist state’s new laws violate the UK-China treaty drafted in 1984, when an agreement was reached between the two countries to hand over Hong Kong.
Raab described the new legislation as a ‘flagrant assault on freedom of speech and freedom of protest.’
“We will live up to its responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong. It is precisely why we respect China as a leading member of the international community that we expect the Chinese government to meet its international obligations to live up to its international responsibilities,” Raab added.
About 400 arrested on first day of new Hong Kong security law
China’s decision sparked widespread protests across Hong Kong, resulting in 300 people being arrested. The police force tweeted: “The first person to be arrested under the law was detained for displaying a flag that said, ‘Hong Kong independence’.”
During Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Johnson told MPs that he would ‘make good on his promise to enact a UK visa programme for Hong Kong residents with BNO status.
The Prime Minister said: “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’s direct and basic law.”
BNO passport holders based in Hong Kong were granted special status in the 1980s. However, under current UK immigration rules, they are only entitled to visa-free access to the UK for six months.
UK previously urged China not to pass law
The UK has publicly expressed its concerns over the national security law, putting pressure on Beijing to reconsider its actions. With that failing, the UK will now follow through on its visa offer, but bigger questions remain over other aspects of Britain’s relationship with China.
Raab has said that the UK visa offer extended to Hong Kong citizens with BNO status will be quota free and the application process would be simple.
The Foreign Secretary said: “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.”
An official statement from Downing Street said that further details of the new visa scheme would be ‘disclosed in due course.’
“For the time being, Hong Kong BNO citizens can travel to the UK immediately, but will be subject to immigration checks,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said.
It’s understood that Hong Kong citizens will be exempt from meeting visa salary thresholds that exist for other immigration categories, such as the Tier 2 visa programme.
China slams interference
Critics of China’s national security law say that it effectively brings an end to the ‘one country, two systems’ principle outlined in a Joint Declaration. A number of countries have promised to come down hard on Beijing over the legislation, including the US, which has imposed several visa restrictions on Chinese officials.
However, China described US visa restrictions as a ‘mistake’ and rebuffed criticism of its actions, saying the matter is internal.
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