I am deeply concerned by recent developments in Hong Kong. The UK takes extremely seriously its longstanding duty to uphold the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The legally binding treaty, registered with the UN, sets out that Hong Kong will have a high degree of autonomy, and provides that rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of the press, of assembly, of association and others, will be ensured by law in Hong Kong. It is important that the basic freedoms enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration are maintained. All rights and principles in that agreement must be respected, not just by Hong Kong but also by the Chinese authorities.
Since the District Council elections in November, senior officials have remained in regular contact with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and the authorities in Beijing. I understand that the leadership in China and Hong Kong is in no doubt about the strength of the UK's concern over the current situation in Hong Kong, and commitment to seeing the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Joint Declaration upheld.
If China implements the proposed national security legislation, the Foreign Secretary has said that the UK will change the status of BN(O) passport holders and set in place arrangements which allow them to come to the UK for longer than the current six month period, and to apply for extendable periods of 12 months to work and study, which in itself will provide a pathway to citizenship. I strongly welcome the Government’s decision to do this, which may end up providing a vital lifeline for Hong Kong citizens.
Rebuilding trust across Hong Kong society by allowing the people of Hong Kong to enjoy the rights and freedoms they were promised can be the only way back from the tensions and unrest that the territory has seen over the last year. I will be following developments closely.