Britain offers refuge to Hong Kong residents in face of Chinese crackdown

In response to China’s coming crackdown on Hong Kong, Boris Johnson says he’s prepared to grant British residency and working rights to approximately 3 million Hong Kong residents — about 40 percent of its population. Johnson says he will make this move if China implements its new security laws, which will criminalize conduct deemed sedition and subversion, and enable Chinese security forces to crush dissent in Hong Kong as they do in mainland China.

This crackdown violates the Sino-British Joint Declaration in which China agreed to preserve Hong Kong’s political freedoms and way of life until 2047.

Johnson’s response would allow holders of certain passports to come to Britain for a renewable period of 12 months and gain the right to work. It “could place them on a route to citizenship,” Johnson stated.

The passports in question are a holdover from British rule. They were issued to people born before 1997. Currently, they only allow holders to stay in Britain for six months, and do not permit them to work. Johnson’s plan would vastly expand the rights the passport confers.

The U.S. doesn’t share Britain’s ties to Hong Kong, of course. However, I agree with Mitch McConnell that we should accept refugees from Hong Kong. As McConnell put it:

Our nation has a rich heritage of standing as a beacon of light and freedom, from refugees of war to those escaping the Iron Curtain. We should exercise it again for the people of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong residents fleeing from China’s crackdown are genuine political refugees. Unlike so many who come here from Central America, they aren’t motivated by the desire to make more money. (There’s nothing wrong with that motive, of course, but it’s not a basis for refugee status.) Hong Kong, though it went into a recession last year, is relatively prosperous.

Britain will benefit substantially if its decision leads to a significant “brain drain” from Hong Kong. China will be the loser, but repression is its priority.

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