Beijing has accused ministers of a “gross interference into China’s internal affairs” by offering Hong Kong residents a route to citizenship over a controversial national security law.
Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, used a press conference on Monday to defend the legislation that clamps down on liberties as necessary to “prevent, suppress and punish collusion with a foreign country”.
And he accused the Government of “political manipulation” by offering around three million Hongkongers the right to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship.
Boris Johnson pledged the move last week after deciding China had committed a “clear and serious breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration that aimed to smooth the transition when the territory was handed back to China in 1997.
Mr Liu also accused some British politicians of portraying China as a “threat” or a “hostile country” when discussing Huawei’s role in the 5G network.
“We want to be your friend, we want to be your partner, but if you want to make China a hostile country you have to bear the consequences,” he said.
The widely criticised security law for the former British colony makes activities deemed subversive or secessionist punishable by imprisonment, and is seen as targeting anti-government demonstrators.
In response to its imposition, the Prime Minister said he would introduce a new route for people in Hong Kong with British National (Overseas) (BNO) status to apply for visas to live and work in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship.
Mr Liu said: “This move constitutes a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.”
But he declined to spell out how Beijing will retaliate after the nation said it reserves “the right to take corresponding measures”.
Instead, he said “we have to wait and see” exactly how Britain moves forward.
“Our first response is we criticise the British move, we don’t think they’ve honoured their commitment,” he said.
“Secondly, we think it’s an interference into China’s internal affairs. I think this is a political manipulation against this national security law.”
He argued the legislation was needed to safeguard Hong Kong from “external elements” amid sustained pro-independence protests in the city.
“Attempts to disrupt or obstruct the implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong SAR (special administrative region) will be met with the strong opposition of 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Mr Liu said.
“All these attempts are doomed to failure.”