Hong Kong’s most prominent activist said he had no plans to leave in the wake of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s offer of citizenship to millions of residents, saying he would prefer Britain to impose harsh sanctions against China.
“I’ve no plan to leave, Hong Kong is my hometown,” Wong told Bloomberg Television in an interview Thursday, when asked whether he would seek asylum in the U.K. “We need to stand up and fight back.”
Wong said Hongkongers welcome Johnson’s offer of a path to citizenship for as many as three million residents who are eligible to hold British National Overseas passports. But, he added, the ideal situation would be for the U.K. to pressure China into abandoning the imposition of new national security legislation that could curb political dissent in the former British colony.
“The more important thing is, I call upon the U.K. government to impose necessary sanctions or restrictive measures in order to push forward the withdrawal of the bill,” Wong said. “Providing assistance and a back up plan for Hong Kong is good. But all we know is that the best scenario and outcome will be for Beijing to stop the implementation of this controversial law.”
The new legislation would bar subversion, sedition and secession in Hong Kong, which is meant to retain its political freedoms for 50 years under the terms of the British handover. The Trump administration has threatened retaliation, including the stripping of the financial hub’s all-important special trading status.
Wong said he doesn’t have a BNO passport, which are available to persons who registered before the reunification of Hong Kong with China in 1997. The 23-year-old activist helped lead the 2014 Umbrella Movement that sought meaningful elections in Hong Kong, and was the subject of a Netflix documentary.
On Thursday, China’s embassy in London responded to Johnson’s offer of citizenship, saying it violated the U.K.’s assurances that Hong Kong residents eligible for a BNO passport wouldn’t be granted the right of abode in Britain. In a statement, China said the pledge was made in a memorandum of understanding exchanged as part of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that paved the way for Hong Kong’s return to China.
“I want to point out that the U.K. has explicitly pledged in an MOU exchanged with China that BNO passport holders who are Chinese citizens residing in Hong Kong shall not have the right of abode in the U.K.,” the embassy said. “If the UK is bent on changing this unilaterally, it will not only go against its own position and promise but also violate international law and the basic norms governing international relations.”
Hong Kong on Thursday is commemorating the June 4 anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, when Chinese troops gunned down an unknown number of democracy protesters in Beijing. Hundreds or thousands may have died.
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