schwit1 shares news that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would be willing to allow more than 2.8 million people from Hong Kong to live and work in the country if China implements a controversial proposed national security law on the former British colony. The law could take effect as soon as this month, and would expand mainland China's control over Hong Kong. NPR reports: Johnson wrote in a column that appeared in The Times of London that the law would infringe on the "one country, two systems" agreement China reached with Britain in 1997 when Britain ceded control of the territory. He added that the law "would curtail [Hong Kong's] freedoms and dramatically erode its autonomy."
If China were to implement the law, Johnson wrote, Britain is prepared to take in around 350,000 people from Hong Kong who already have British National (Overseas) passports and 2.5 million who would be eligible to apply for them. He also noted that the U.K. would be making "one of the biggest changes in our visa system in history." It would allow Hong Kongers with these passports to come to the U.K. for a renewable period of a year. The current system allows them to come without a visa for up to six months. The potential new system would include a right to work and, potentially, a path to citizenship. Johnson did not elaborate in the column about how the 2.5 million people eligible for a British passport would be able to attain one, or how arrivals from Hong Kong would attain citizenship. "Many people in Hong Kong fear that their way of life -- which China pledged to uphold -- is under threat," Johnson wrote. "If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away... I still hope that China will remember that responsibilities go hand in glove with strength and leadership."
The law would authorize mainland China to prevent "secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference" in the semi-autonomous city. "One part that has got people worried is the suggestion that China could set up its own institutions in Hong Kong responsible for security," reports the BBC.
"Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997, but under a unique agreement -- a mini-constitution called the Basic Law and a so-called 'one country, two systems' principle," the report adds. "They are supposed to protect certain freedoms for Hong Kong: freedom of assembly and speech, an independent judiciary and some democratic rights -- freedoms that no other part of mainland China has." People in Hong Kong believe the law will result in a loss of these freedoms and could see Beijing punish people for criticizing the country, as happens in mainland China.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.