'Secret plan' for HK refugees in Britain

Top News | Amy Nip and Reuters 25 May 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a "secret plan" to allow Hongkongers to move to the United Kingdom if China clamps down further, a report said.

At a meeting earlier this year at the prime minister's official country residence Chequers, Johnson told ministers he could be prepared to give Hongkongers refuge, the Sunday Express reported.

It is unclear if this will include just the 315,000 Hongkongers who hold a British National (Overseas) passport and their extended families - or the entire population.

BN(O) allows visa-free travel to the United Kingdom, but not residency. The proposal is that refugees would get full passports.

The meeting at Chequers reportedly saw unanimous support for the move, which is similar to the campaign to provide full citizenship to Ugandan Asians in the 1970s when they were persecuted by dictator Idi Amin.

One of the families to come over then was that of Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Separately, Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, and former British foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind led a coalition of political figures to decry Beijing's move for a national security law for the SAR.

A statement organized by the two was signed by 201 political and legal people from around the world. It said the proposed laws are a "comprehensive assault" on autonomy, the rule of law and freedoms and a "flagrant breach" of the Sino-British Joint Declaration that returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.

"If the international community cannot trust Beijing to keep its word when it comes to Hong Kong, people will be reluctant to take its word on other matters," they wrote.

Patten said the statement reflected outrage at Beijing's decision.

Seventeen members of the US Congress signed the statement. Forty-four members of Britain's House of Commons and eight from the House of Lords also signed alongside figures from Asia, Europe North America and Australia.

American officials said the legislation would be bad for the economies of Hong Kong and the mainland and could jeopardize the SAR's special status under US law. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo urged Beijing to reconsider. Any decision impinging on Hong Kong autonomy and freedoms "would inevitably impact our assessment of one country, two systems and the status of the territory," he wrote.

Beijing dismissed the complaints as meddling. State media CCTV slammed Patten as an "arrogant ex-owner" and said the United Kingdom has a national security law as well.

It said the joint declaration gave the UK no power to interfere.

amy.nip@singtaonewscorp.com



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