Hong Kong, July 1 (ANI): Condemning China's new security law, the British government on Wednesday said it would offer eligible Hong Kong residents a chance to settle in the United Kingdom and ultimately apply for citizenship.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was quoted by CNN as saying that the new national security law imposed by China, constitutes "a clear violation of the autonomy of Hong Kong and a direct threat to the freedoms of its people."
He said it was, therefore "a clear and serious violation" of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which laid the groundwork for the city's handover from British to China in 1997 and stated that Hong Kong's existing system of government would remain in place for 50 years.
China's central government on Tuesday night imposed a sweeping national security law, stripping the city of its autonomy and precious civil, social freedoms, cementing Beijing's authoritarian rule over the territory.
Hundreds turned out on Wednesday -- the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British rule to China -- to protest against the legislation in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay, but were met with a heavy security presence. According to other media reports, some 300 people were arrested during the protests.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said that his government will honour its promise to British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders, who could otherwise face imprisonment for acts such as protesting or campaigning under the new law.
The law dramatically broadens the powers of local and mainland authorities to investigate, prosecute, and punish dissenters. In vague language, it criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers. People convicted of such crimes can face sentences of up to life in prison.
Several political and activist groups in the city formally disbanded on Monday in advance of the law being introduced. Shopkeepers tore down posters that supported anti-government protests, and many citizens hastily deleted social media posts and accounts. (ANI)