Britain has stood by its offer to grant up to 3 million Hong Kong residents the right to live and work in the UK, following China’s decision to impose a national security law in the territory.
Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the sweeping security legislation they say is aimed at snuffing out dissent.
As thousands of protesters gathered downtown for an annual rally marking the anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China in 1997, riot police used pepper spray and fired pellets as they made arrests after crowds spilled into the streets chanting “resist till the end” and “Hong Kong independence”.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain would stand by its pledge to give British National Overseas (BNO) passport-holders in its former colony a path to British citizenship, allowing them to settle in the United Kingdom.
Almost 3 million Hong Kong residents are eligible for the passport. There were 349,881 holders of the passports as of February.
China reacted angrily to the move when it was first suggested in May.
“The enactment and imposition of this national security law constitute a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” Johnson told the UK parliament on Wednesday.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain had carefully assessed China’s national security legislation since it was published late on Tuesday.
“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 treaty between the United Kingdom and China,” Raab told Reuters and the BBC.