LONDON, UK — Editor's Note: The video above is from January 10, 2020.
Britain’s foreign secretary has announced that residence rights for Hong Kongers eligible for British National Overseas passports will be extended to five years.
Dominic Raab told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the new rules will allow more than 3 million Hong Kongers the right to live and work in Britain without the current six-month limit. After five years in the U.K., BNO passport holders could apply for settled status and then apply for citizenship 12 months after that.
The announcement came after China imposed a sweeping new national security law in Hong Kong that Britain calls a flagrant breach of China’s international obligations and a clear and serious violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Hong Kong police made their first arrests Wednesday under a new national security law, detaining at least seven people suspected of violating it during protests by thousands of people.
Police said one man with a Hong Kong independence flag was arrested at a protest in the city’s Causeway Bay shopping district. Police arrested another woman for holding up a sign displaying the British flag and calling for Hong Kong's independence. Three other women were detained for possessing items advocating independence. Further details were not immediately available.
Hong Kong police said on Facebook that they arrested more than 180 people on various charges, including unlawful assembly, possession of weapons and violating the national security law.
The arrests come as thousands took to the streets Wednesday in an anti-government protest on the 23rd anniversary of Britain's handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. For the first time, police banned this year's annual march. Protesters shouted slogans, lambasted police and held up signs condemning the Chinese government and the new security law.
The law, imposed by China following last year's anti-government protests in the semi-autonomous territory, makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the city's internal affairs. Any person taking part in secessionist activities, such as shouting slogans or holding up banners and flags calling for the city’s independence, is violating the law regardless of whether violence is used.
The most serious offenders, such as those deemed to be masterminds behind the crimes, could receive a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Lesser offenders could receive jail terms of up to three years, short-term detention or restriction.
Britain’s government estimates there are around 2.9 million British National Overseas passport-holders currently in Hong Kong. It says its extended residency rules would apply to them and their immediate dependents.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The UK has a historic and moral obligation to British Nationals Overseas in Hong Kong and we will honor our commitment to them.”
“China’s decision to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong is deeply regrettable. Now China have imposed this law we will launch a new immigration route for British Nationals Overseas and their families.