China on Wednesday accused Britain of having a “colonial mentality,” after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised Hong Kong residents a path to citizenship if China enacted planned national security laws.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Britain’s historical link to Hong Kong stemmed from “aggressive, colonial and unequal treaties.”
“We urge the British side to retreat from the cliff, abandon the Cold War mentality and colonial mentality, recognise, and respect the fact that Hong Kong has returned” to China, Zhao said, or else Britain risked “smashing its own feet with the rock it is lifting”.
The statement came after Johnson pledged to change Britain’s immigration law to offer Hong Kong residents a path to citizenship if Beijing enacted the national security laws for the financial hub.
In an opinion piece published in the South China Morning Post, Johnson said Britain expected China to abide by international agreements, referring to the 1984 joint Sino-British declaration, which aimed to protect Hong Kong’s freedoms.
The former British colony of Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997.
China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, last week approved a plan to establish new laws in Hong Kong targeting subversion, secession and terrorism.
Critics say the laws will be the death of the “One Country, Two Systems” framework, which guarantees certain freedoms for Hong Kong until 2047.
On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said China should “step back from the brink” regarding the law, which is expected to be rolled out as soon as August.
Meanwhile, protests have returned to Hong Kong, with police cracking down on anti-government demonstrators.
More disruption is expected on Thursday, when a bill that would outlaw mocking the national anthem will be decided in Hong Kong’s legislature.