There’s not much that’s made proud to be British lately.
Yesterday’s decision to grant Hong Kong’s three million residents the right to move to the UK made me very proud.
It follows China’s imposition of a new security law which criminalises – with maximum penalties of life imprisonment – all protests against Beijing. Somewhat provocatively this took place on the 23rd anniversary of the UK’s handover of Hong Kong to China.
That’s when the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration established the “one country, two systems” rule that promised that Hong Kong’s capitalist system would remain unchanged for 50 years, until 1947.
The decision is especially brave because of China’s power and influence in the world and its huge market which Britain would want access to post-Brexit.
The Government must also be fearful that people will question why when part of Brexit is about controlling immigration are we opening our doors to three million people.
Rather than giving in to short-term expediency our Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons: “We will not look the other way on Hong Kong and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people.”
Holders of British National Overseas passports will automatically be granted leave to remain in the UK for five years, after which they can apply for settled status and then full British citizenship. There will be no quotas or salary thresholds.
I’ve had a small taste of what it’s like to have basic liberties curtailed these last few months and I didn’t like it one bit. I just didn’t think it possible that my freedom of movement could be restricted or that the Government could force the closure of certain shops, restaurants and pubs.
At least there has been a good reason for the lockdown and, on the whole, people have been supportive of the move plus there’s been no limit on freedom of expression.
I find it difficult to comprehend what it must be like if you can’t voice your opinions without fear of arrest, something we so take for granted here in Great Britain.
While the rest of the world’s attention is focused on fighting the virus that emerged in China, I think what Beijing is doing is utterly reprehensible.
At least Britain has done the right thing and given the people of Hong Kong a potential escape route from oppression.