London [UK], January 29 (ANI): The United Kingdom on Friday pledged to stand by the people of Hong Kong against Chinese crackdown, as it prepares to launch new visa scheme that offers qualified Hong Kong citizens a route to British citizenship.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the new scheme under which people with British National (Overseas) status will be able to apply to live and work in the UK for up to five years and eventually seek citizenship.
Before the change, which takes effect on Sunday, people with BN(O) status could only visit the UK for up to six months and were not allowed to work or settle.
"I am immensely proud that we have brought in this new route for Hong Kong BN(O)s to live, work and make their home in our country. In doing so we have honoured our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong, and we have stood up for freedom and autonomy - values both the UK and Hong Kong hold dear," Johnson was quoted by the UK government statement, as saying.
The UK committed to this visa following the imposition of the National Security Law imposed by the Chinese government in June 2020.
The United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that China's imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong is a "clear and serious breach" of the Sino-British Joint Declaration contrary to international law.
"We have been clear we won't look the other way when it comes to Hong Kong. We will live up to our historic responsibility to its people. China's imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration contrary to international law. With the launch of this new visa route, BN(O) citizens will now have a choice to come and live, work and study in the UK," he said.
China imposed the security law on June 30 last year, focusing on acts Beijing deems secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces.
The legislation came after the months of pro-democracy protests that marked by increasing violence towards the end of 2019,
Since the law has been passed, the pro-Beijing authorities have detained pro-democracy activists and politicians - including those elected to the Legislative Council, Hong Kong's mini parliament.
January has been marked by a series of mass arrests. Jimmy Lai, a media tycoon and China critic, is among the most prominent people facing charges under the law. (ANI)