British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday said that his country will change its immigration rules if China imposes the national security law on Hong Kong.

On May 28, China’s legislature voted to approve the new security law for Hong Kong that will make it a criminal offence to subvert Beijing’s authority in the region. The controversial law is aimed at curbing protests, which rocked Hong Kong last year, prohibiting subversion, separatism, “acts of foreign interference” and terrorism.

“If China imposes its national security law, the British government will change our immigration rules,” Johnson wrote in an op-ed for the South China Morning Post.

He said that currently, over 3,50,000 of the territory’s people hold British National Overseas Passports and another 2.5 million would be eligible to apply for them. If the change is implemented, holders of British National Overseas passports from Hong Kong will be allowed to come to the UK for a renewable period of 12 months and given further immigration rights. This also includes the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship, Johnson added.

The prime minister said that China’s decision will curtail Hong Kong’s freedom and dramatically erode its autonomy. “Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life – which China pledged to uphold – is under threat,” Johnson wrote, adding that if China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience “shrug our shoulders and walk away”.

“Since the handover in 1997, the key has been the precious concept of ‘one country, two systems’, enshrined in Hong Kong’s Basic Law and underpinned by the Joint Declaration signed by Britain and China”, the prime minister said. “If China proceeds, this would be in direct conflict with its obligations under the Joint Declaration, a legally binding treaty registered with the United Nations.”

On May 29, United States President Donald Trump said that his administration would “begin the process” of ending the American government’s special relationship with Hong Kong, including on trade and law enforcement, as part of the country’s efforts to retaliate against China. The US president also issued an order to ban graduate students from American universities who are connected to the Chinese military.

Also read:

  1. Explained: The national security bill fuelling Hong Kong’s discontent against China
  2. China’s Parliament approves controversial security law for Hong Kong