UK will extend HK visa rights if China pursues security law

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, Thursday May 28, 2020. Raab has signed a joint statement urging China to work with the government of Hong Kong to find a "mutually acceptable accommodation that will honour China's international obligations" under the Joint Declaration. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP) (Stefan Rousseau)

LONDON – The British government said Thursday that it will grant hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents greater visa rights if China doesn’t scrap a planned new security law for the semi-autonomous territory.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said about 300,000 people in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) passports would be able to stay in Britain for 12 months instead of the current six if China does not rethink its plan. Raab said the length of stay also would be extendable and provide “a pathway” to U.K. citizenship.

When Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 after 150 years as a British colony, its residents were not granted the right to live in the U.K.

China’s proposed national security law aims to reinforce Beijing’s control over Hong Kong in a bid to prevent a return of often-violent protests seen for months last year.

Raab and the foreign ministers of the United States, Canada and Australia said in a joint statement the proposed law “would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.”