United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new rules allowing Hong Kong citizens holding a British National Overseas passport to emigrate into the U.K., in retaliation to a new set of security laws imposed on Hong Kong residents that he deemed undemocratic and unfair. Under the new rules, Hong Kong citizens previously connected to the United Kingdom via Hong Kong’s old status as a colony of the U.K. (meaning any Hongkonger born before 1997, when it was still a colony) “will have the right to live and work in the country for five years. After that, they will be allowed to apply for settled status and then again for citizenship,” says The Christian Science Monitor.
The security laws imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong enables law enforcement and authorities to strongly suppress any secessionist or pro-independence activity. Most western leaders as well as Hong Kong citizens themselves see this as a move to take away much of the territory’s autonomy. “It violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration,” said P.M. Boris Johnson, referring to a treaty signed between China and the U.K. ensuring the protection of many of Hong Kong’s freedoms after it became a territory of China instead of a British colony. However, some British citizens are concerned about the potential new influx of emigrants, due to current housing and immigrant crises in the U.K. One citizen said, “But where will they be accommodated when we can’t even house our own?”
The British Prime Minister’s offer of citizenship to the Hongkongers shows a commitment to democracy and the freedom of world citizens that is much needed in today’s society. Hongkongers should not be censored by the Chinese government, as they have a separate government and economic system from China that is guaranteed in the terms of the aforementioned China-U.K. treaty.
The suppression of anti-government speech is a regressive tactic that should not exist in today’s society, and its existence only creates chaos in places like Hong Kong, where citizens consistently take to the streets in protest against their unnecessary suppression. The opportunity for Hongkongers to create freer lives in the U.K. is a step in the right direction and will hopefully inspire other countries to take similar stances against the new security laws created by the Chinese government.
Already, many Hongkongers have been affected by these new security laws. Over 370 Hongkongers were arrested last Wednesday as they protested the new laws in the streets, and were met by police with “water cannon, teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets,” according to Independent. In addition to the United Kingdom taking swift action against China after hearing of these new laws, the European Union and the United States have also addressed them. The U.S. Congress approved sanctions on any groups that aim to undermine the autonomy of Hong Kong, and the European Union condemned the laws.
The actions and new security laws of the Chinese government have been committed under the guise of encouraging peace, when really they promote protest and the opposite of freedom for Hong Kong and its citizens. The United Kingdom and other western governments that have condemned these laws and the newfound censorship are correct in doing so, and could hopefully contribute to the reversal or lessening of these laws. Though allowing more than three million people to emigrate into the United Kingdom is much easier said than done, the opportunity for these Hong Kong citizens to live in a more democratic environment is a pro that much outweighs the cons.