May 28 (UPI) -- British officials announced Thursday they're considering extending citizenship to some Hong Kong residents if China does not withdraw a controversial national security law.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain would remove barriers in the process for Hong Kong residents who hold British National (Overseas) passports to become British citizens if China does not step back from the law that criminalizes acts of secession, sedition, subversion, terrorism and conspiring with foreign actors.
"If China continues down this path and implements this national security legislation we will change that status and we will remove that 6-month limit and allow those BN(O) passport holders to come to the U.K. and apply to work and study for extendable periods of 12 months and that would itself provide a pathway to future citizenship," Raab said.
There are 314,779 BN(O) holders in Hong Kong, according to the British Home Office. The status was granted to residents who registered before Britain transferred control of Hong Kong to China in 1997.
China's National People's Congress passed the resolution in a near-unanimous vote with 2,878 votes in favor, prompting criticism from other national governments.
Raab issued a joint statement alongside Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Canadian Foreign Minister Froncois-Philippe Champagne and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing "deep concern" about the measure.
"China's decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, U.N.-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration," they wrote, adding it also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes and undermines commitments to protect the rights of people in Hong Kong.