British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday reiterated the UK’s plans for some of the “biggest changes” to the country’s visa system in order to allow around three million Hong Kong nationals a path to British citizenship if China does not back off over a new controversial national security law.
The UK prime minister said the offer would be triggered only if China presses ahead with the new law which threatens to strip the former British colony of its traditional freedoms.
An estimated 3,50,000 Hongkongers hold British National (Overseas) passports and another 2.5 million would be eligible to apply for them. At present, these BNO passports only allow visa-free access to the UK for up to six months. “If China imposes its national security law, the British government will change our immigration rules and allow any holder of these passports from Hong Kong to come to the UK for a renewable period of 12 months and be given further immigration rights, including the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship,” writes Johnson. “This would amount to one of the biggest changes in our visa system in history. If it proves necessary, the British government will take this step and take it willingly,” he said.
The offer was laid out by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in the House of Commons on Tuesday.