LONDON (AFP) – China warned Britain yesterday 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 the United Kingdom (UK) 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 stressed that “all Chinese compatriots residing in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals”.
The British offer covered almost three million Hong Kongers who either have a British National Overseas passport or are eligible to apply for one.
The embassy said these people were Chinese nationals as well.
“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.
“We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures,” it said without elaborating. Beijing has never publically 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.