China warns Britain about Hong Kong citizenship plan

The British offer covered almost three million Hong Kongers who either have a British National Overseas passports or are eligible to apply for one. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - China warned Britain on Thursday (July 2) it could retaliate with "corresponding measures" for London's decision to extend a broader path to citizenship for the residents of Hong Kong.

Britain's offer came in response to a sweeping new security law that China unveiled for the former British territory this week.

Hong Kong was under British jurisdiction until its handover to China in 1997 with a guarantee that Beijing would preserve the city's judicial and legislative autonomy for 50 years.

The Chinese embassy in London said it is "clear… that all Chinese compatriots residing in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals, whether or not they are holders of the British Dependent Territories Citizens passport or the British National (Overseas) passport".

The British offer covered almost three million Hong Kongers who either have a British National (Overseas) passports or are eligible to apply for one.

"If the British side makes unilateral changes to the relevant practice, it will breach its own position and pledges as well as international law and basic norms governing international relations," the embassy said in a statement.

"We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures," it said without elaborating.

Beijing has never publicly raised the possibility of offering Britons either Chinese citizenship or broader residence rights.

The Chinese statement concluded by urging London to reassess its decision and "refrain from interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any way".

Britain had sought closer relations with China after ending its decades-long membership in the European Union this year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government also irritated the US administration in January by allowing the private Chinese telecoms group Huawei to unroll Britain's speedy new data network.

But Britain is now studying ways it can cut Huawei out of its system entirely and build up an alliance of European and Asian providers that reduces China's dominance in the field.

UK media said the Foreign Office summoned the Chinese ambassador on Wednesday to express its concerns about the law.

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