Thank you for contacting me about the situation in Hong Kong.
As you will know, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing has adopted a wide-ranging national security law for Hong Kong. This is a grave and deeply disturbing step. The Government has carefully assessed the legislation and found that the enactment of the legislation, imposed on the people of Hong Kong by authorities in Beijing, constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
China’s actions can only undermine international trust in their government’s willingness to keep its word and live up to its promises. I understand that the UK’s Consulate General in Hong Kong has spoken to senior members of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government’s executive to express the UK’s objections, and the Chinese Ambassador was summoned by the Foreign Office’s Permanent Secretary.
I am proud that the UK will keep its word and live up to its responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong. The UK will honour the commitment made in June to change the arrangements for those with BNO status and proposals have been developed for a bespoke immigration route for BNOs and their dependents. Given the unique circumstances and our historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong, it is only right that these arrangements have been made.
I also welcome the UK’s international work, alongside partners, to consider what further action should be taken. Through the UK’s diplomatic leadership, the UK was joined by twenty-seven other nations in making the first ever formal statement on this issue in the UN Human Rights Council expressing deep concern about the human rights situation in both Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
China has not only breached its international obligations to the UK under the Joint Declaration, but it has broken its promise to the people of Hong Kong under its own laws.
The legislation includes provisions for: the ability of mainland authorities to take jurisdiction over certain cases and try them in Chinese courts; Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, rather than the Chief Justice, to appoint judges to hear national security cases; and the establishment by the Chinese government of a new Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong, run by and reporting to mainland authorities. These provisions violate the high degree of autonomy of executive and legislative powers and the independent judicial authority, and represent a flagrant assault on freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful protest for the people of Hong Kong.
The UK will grant BNOs five years limited leave to remain, with the right to work or study. After these five years, they will be able to apply for settled statues and, after a further 12 months with settled status they will be able to apply for citizenship. All those with BNO status will be eligible, as will their family dependents who are usually resident in Hong Kong. I welcome that the Home Office will put in place a simple, streamlined application process and that there will be no quotas. I look forward to hearing more detail about the proposals in due course.
Regarding reports of HSBC and Standard Charted supporting the National Security Legislation. As the Foreign Secretary has made clear, businesses will make their own judgment calls. The UK has made a historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong to protect their autonomy and freedom, and more importantly, so has China. The UK will hold China to those responsibilities.