Britain will not walk away from the people of Hong Kong, Boris Johnson said Wednesday (June 3), if Beijing imposes a national security law that could see mainland Chinese security and intelligence agents stationed in the former British colony for the first time.
The UK prime minister's comments, published in the Times newspaper, followed a warning from Britain that China risked destroying one of the jewels of Asia's economy.
China's foreign ministry responded by accusing Britain of gross interference in its affairs.
Beijing's planned new law has prompted Britain to offer refuge to almost 3 million Hong Kong residents eligible for British National Overseas passports.
The passport was created before Britain returned the territory to Chinese rule in 1997.
It allows the holder to visit Britain for six months, but although it's a British passport, it doesn't come with an automatic right to live and work there.
Now Foreign Minister Dominic Raab says the six-month limit could be removed if the planned changes are imposed on the city state.
Beijing and Hong Kong authorities insist the changes wouldn't damage the city's high degree of autonomy, established under the formula of "one country, two systems." Last year's crackdown on sometimes violent anti-government protests had already prompted a surge in applications to renew BNO passports, with another rush of enquiries since the Chinese announcement on May 21.
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