LONDON: The United Kingdom said China's imposition of a security law on Hong Kong was a "clear and serious" violation of the 1984 Joint Declaration and that London would offer around 3 million residents of the former colony a path to British citizenship.
Hong Kong police on Wednesday (Jul 1) fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people as protesters took to the streets in defiance of sweeping security legislation introduced by China that they say is aimed at snuffing out dissent.
"The enactment and imposition of this national security law constitute a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration," Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament on Wednesday.
Johnson said Britain would stand by its pledge to give British National Overseas (BNO) passport-holders in Hong Kong a path to British citizenship, allowing them to settle in the UK.
Almost 3 million Hong Kong residents are eligible for the passport. There were 349,881 holders of the passports as of February.
Hong Kong's autonomy was guaranteed under the "one country, two systems" agreement enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed by then Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Hong Kong was handed back to China on Jul 1, 1997, after more than 150 years of British rule – imposed after Britain defeated China in the First Opium War. China had never recognised the "unequal treaties" allowing Britain's rule of Hong Kong island, the Kowloon peninsula and later its lease of the rural New Territories.
HONG KONG ROW
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.