China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Britain had no jurisdiction or supervision over the city and that any threat to the city’s stability and prosperity comes from foreign forces. Mr Zhao insisted decisions on national security in Hong Kong were China’s affair and Britain’s connection to the territory stemmed from “aggressive colonisation and unequal treaties”.
Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life, which China pledged to uphold, is under threat
He said: “The UK’s irresponsible remarks and accusations have grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs including Hong Kong affairs.
“We advise the UK side to step back from the brink.
“The UK said the legislation is authoritarian but this word is the exact characterisation of the UK’s former rule over Hong Kong.”
Boris Johnson and Xi Jinping
The threats from Beijing came as Boris Johnson announced he was ready to open the door to nearly three million Hong Kong citizens if a new security law was imposed.
Critics say the law would rob the territory of its autonomy and the Prime Minister has offered to make what he says would be one of the “biggest changes” in the history of the British visa system to allow 2.85 million Hong Kong citizens the chance of fully-fledged citizenship.
The move represents a dramatic escalation in the stand-off between the UK and China over Hong Kong.
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China’s ceremonial legislature, the National People’s Congress, endorsed the controversial security law for Hong Kong last week.
The law will alter the territory’s mini-constitution, or Basic Law, to require its government to enforce measures to be decided later by Chinese leaders.
Critics say the law erodes the “one country, two systems” framework that promised Hong Kong freedoms not found in mainland China for 50 years.
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Mr Johnson said the national security law would breach the treaty between China and the UK and would “dramatically erode” Hong Kong’s autonomy.
He said: “If China imposes its national security law, the British Government will change our immigration rules and allow any holder of these passports from Hong Kong to come to the UK for a renewable period of 12 months and be given further immigration rights, including the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship.
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“This would amount to one of the biggest changes in our visa system in British history.
“Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life, which China pledged to uphold, is under threat.
“If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honour our obligations and provide an alternative.”
Political pressure is growing across the Commonwealth, with chair of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, Tom Tugendhat, joining his counterparts in Australia, Canada and New Zealand in writing to their national leaders to express concerns over the planned security law.
The jointly signed letter by the committee chairs, which will also be sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations, states that Beijing’s imposition is a breach of the legally binding agreement between the UK and China.
The representatives have asked for collaboration to establish a United Nations Special Envoy for Hong Kong.
Mr Tugendhat said: “The security law will allow Beijing to launch a complete crackdown on free speech, taking away the voice of the people by preventing any criticism of the Chinese government’s ultra-authoritarian rule.
“We cannot allow this to happen.”