Britain’s former colony of Hong Kong is under threat from China and the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is coming to their assistance.
China is threatening to blatantly violate the agreement signed with Great Britain in 1997 that gave Beijing possession of the island. In that deal, China agreed to maintain a certain autonomy for Hong Kong. But in recent years, China has sought to weaken that autonomy, leading to huge demonstrations and civil unrest.
Now, China is contemplating passing a new “security law” that would potentially strip the island of some of its independence from China. Western governments are up in arms over the proposal and are worried because it shows China cannot be trusted to keep its commitments.
Boris Johnson and Great Britain feel a special kinship with Hong Kong residents. The colony’s inhabitants are all eligible for British passports and Johnson wants to use that to allow for a fast track citizenship.
In the Times on Wednesday, the prime minister confirmed that if China passes the law, people in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports will be allowed to come to the UK for 12 months without a visa. Currently they are allowed to come for six months.
Around 350,000 people in Hong Kong currently already have a BNO passport, but 2.6 million others are also eligible.
Passport-holders would also be given further immigration rights, including the right to work.
This “could place them on a route to citizenship,” Mr Johnson said.
The British are reminding Beijing that they have a special interest in what happens to Hong Kong and that any changes to the Basic Law signed in 1997 would not be looked at in a friendly way.
The prime minister added that the immigration changes “would amount to one of the biggest changes in our visa system in British history”.
“If it proves necessary, the British government will take this step and take it willingly.
“Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life, which China pledged to uphold, is under threat.
“If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honour our obligations and provide an alternative.”
China appears desperate to distract from its culpability in the coronavirus pandemic and causing trouble in Hong Kong is just one way they are looking to change the conversation about them.
Beijing has threatened the independence of Taiwan, the Australian economy, the U.S. Navy, and India. That’s a pretty diverse range of threats, even for a superpower. They also fear the democracy movement in Hong Kong that they are convinced is being run by “foreign agents,” including the CIA. They don’t very much like protesters in Hong Kong denouncing Beijing in images that are broadcast around the world.
Hence, the crackdown. As coronavirus restrictions ease and the threat from the virus fades, the streets of Hong Kong will once again fill with tens of thousands of protesters. And China will have to make a decision on the island’s freedom and autonomy.