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Lam says Beijing will not back down on new security law

Mrs Lam in Beijing to discuss the new security law.

Hong Kong

HONG Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Wednesday the central government will not back down on plans for national security legislation for the financial hub, even as Britain stepped up criticism of the move.

Mrs Lam, speaking during a trip to Beijing to discuss the new security law, was flanked by Hong Kong's justice secretary Teresa Cheng, its security secretary John Lee and its police chief Chris Tang.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier said Britain will not walk away from the people of Hong Kong if China imposes a national security law that would conflict with its international obligations under a 1984 accord.

He said he will give as many as three million Hong Kong residents the chance to seek refuge and a new life in the UK if China presses ahead with plans to impose a new security law on the former British colony.

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The premier's intervention marks an escalation in London's pressure on Beijing over its proposals for a law that democracy advocates say will erode the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.

"Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life, which China pledged to uphold, is under threat," Mr Johnson wrote in an article published in The Times of London newspaper. "If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honor our obligations and provide an alternative."

The Chinese government said Mr Johnson's comments amounted to foreign interference in internal affairs.

The offer of a path to citizenship, first made by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week, had already provoked a stern response from China. While Mr Johnson's proposal is unlikely to influence Beijing to change its position, a point British officials accept, it will be broadly popular among his Conservative Party colleagues who are increasingly hostile towards China.

Mr Johnson's government says a re-set of relations with Beijing will be necessary in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic and officials are re-examining whether to go ahead with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies as a provider of equipment for Britain's next generation mobile networks.

The prime minister's intervention is also likely to be welcomed in the US, where President Donald Trump has stepped up his rhetoric against Beijing and pressed Mr Johnson to keep Huawei out of British 5G systems on security grounds. REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

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