Support 100 years of independent journalism.

Dominic Raab’s offer to Hongkongers is right – now he needs to prevent a repeat

The Foreign Secretary's big test will be to avoid having to make a similarly generous offer to another country in ten years' time.

By Stephen Bush

Dominic Raab has unveiled a big and comprehensive offer of citizenship to British overseas nationals in Hong Kong after the passage of the Chinese government’s new security bill into law, allowing all 2.5m British overseas nationals in Hong Kong and their dependents to resettle in the United Kingdom.

It offers a good and sensible path to citizenship that ought to be rolled out to other British overseas nationals living in repressive regimes. But it doesn’t feature a direct path to citizenship for Hong Kongers born after the handover to Chinese rule in 1997: and it is people under 23 who form the block of Hong Kong’s protest movement.

That needn’t be a problem: there is an open-and-shut case that if you are protesting the passage of the security law in Hong Kong you face a credible and serious risk of repression and therefore you should be able to move to another country as a refugee under existing British and international law. Successive British governments have not only tried to wriggle out of these commitments but have implemented them in a pointlessly destructive way – refugees going through the asylum system cannot work, which means the areas that they are waiting rapidly become economically straitened ghost towns. Giving people the right to seek and do work while they seek refuge is win-win. But it’s better, and probably easier, to fix that loophole for all political refugees, that to have a specific Hong Kong only solution.

Raab’s next task to make sure that in ten years time, his successor isn’t making a similar offer to countries. As well as looking again at the government’s position on Huawei, a wider rethink of the government’s China policy is surely required.  

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery