UK has asked Australia to give residency to fleeing British Hong Kong residents
UK may ask Australia to give residency to fleeing British Hong Kong residents
London: The UK has asked Australia and other intelligence allies to consider offering residency to Hong Kongers if there is a major flight of citizens over Chinese suppression.
Britain last week announced it would give roughly 314,000 British national overseas (BNO) passport holders a pathway to UK citizenship if China imposes its new security law that would punish any behaviour that endangered Chinese national security in Hong Kong.
This law is a violation of the 1984 international agreement China and Britain signed that guaranteed Hong Kong its own autonomy under the so-called "one-country, two-systems" model.
China's crackdown in Hong Kong galvanised British MPs from right across the parliament on Tuesday in support of a stronger stance from the UK government towards China.
"This is the first sip of a bitter cup," former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, quoting Winston Churchill, said of China's suppression in Hong Kong.
Duncan Smith, who is leading the push inside the Tory government for a tougher approach towards China, urged Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to "organise the free world" so it could collectively stand up to Chinese intimidation.
"When it comes to Hong Kong passport holders, would he now not work with all our allies around the world to get them to give all those people, if necessary, right of abode?"
Raab said he raised the idea with the foreign ministers of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing nations: the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada, during a video call earlier this week.
"I raised it on the Five Eyes call yesterday, the possibility of ... burden-sharing if we see a mass exodus from Hong Kong.
"I don't actually think that is likely ... but he's right to raise it and we're on the case diplomatically," he said.
Raab did not say what the response of his counterparts was; Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been contacted for comment.
But he said the UK and Australia would be working "more intensely in the future" on how to counter China.
"The Australians feel very much that this is in their neighbourhood and their backyard and are taking a very principled point of view," he said.
"They are right up against it; they see all of the impacts of what China is doing, even closer than we do so we work hand-in-glove with them," he said.
Hong Kong unites MPs against China
In growing signs the UK may adopt a cross-party approach to China policy, similar to Australia's bipartisan strategy, Raab's comments were well received by MPs from all parties.
Noting the rare outbreak of consensus, former deputy prime minister Damian Green said Raab had the chance to unite the House and the country behind a "complete reset" of the UK's China policy.
Raab acknowledged the cross-party, "groundswell of consensus" but said the challenge would be converting it into the wider international community.
However, MPs from all parties urged the foreign secretary to adopt an even stronger posture, including bringing forward new laws that would enable vias bans and the freezing of assets on individuals deemed responsible for human rights abuses.
"He's got the whole House behind him, I just want more oomph from him, a bit more vim, a bit more determination," said the senior Labour MP Chris Bryant.
"And so I want to say to him, please, please, please, bring forward the blasted Magnitsky regulations ... not in weeks and months and years but in days and hours," Bryant urged.
Raab promised to do his "level best" to get the bill before the House before the Commons rises for the summer break at the end of July.
Five Eyes is an indispensable part of 🇦🇺's international cooperation. Today
@dominicraab @SecPompeo @winstonpeters & @FP_Champagne & I discussed global challenges, including #COVID19, safeguarding against future crises, Hong Kong autonomy, critical tech & supply chains 🇦🇺🇳🇿🇺🇸🇨🇦🇬🇧