(Beijing) China announced, on Friday, that it will no longer recognize the special passports granted by Britain to some Hong Kong citizens, after London’s decision to extend their residency rights on British soil.
On Sunday, London announced the entry into force of an extended residence permit linked to a passport, in response to China’s imposition last year of a national security law restricting freedoms in the former British colony.
Hong Kong citizens who hold a British overseas passport (“BNO”), a document inherited from handover to China in 1997, will now be able to live and work in the UK for a period of five years, and ultimately apply for British citizenship.
Until now, they were only allowed to visit the UK for six months, without being able to work there.
In response, Beijing expressed its “indignation.”
“As of January 31, China will no longer recognize the so-called British overseas passports as travel or identity documents,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
He added that Beijing “reserves the right to take additional measures.”
“The United Kingdom has turned a large number of Hong Kong residents into second-class British citizens,” the spokesman accused.
The practical consequences of the Beijing Declaration are unclear.
This may mean that Hong Kong residents holding BNO passports will not be able to enter mainland China. But the Chinese authorities do not necessarily know who holds this passport.
When traveling to mainland China, Hong Kong residents can only use a Hong Kong passport.
They only have a reason to use a BNO passport to enter the territory of the United Kingdom or another country that recognizes this travel document.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that the new rights “respect our deep historical and friendly relations with the people of Hong Kong” and defend freedom.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the National Security Act, which was passed in Hong Kong, “constituting a clear and serious violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration” which supervised the return of the region.
According to London, there are around 350,000 BNO passport holders, a number that has nearly doubled since the protest began in Hong Kong a year and a half ago. But another 2.9 million Hong Kong people, in fact all those born before 1997, can obtain this document.
According to the UK Home Office, 7,000 BNO passport holders actually arrived in the UK between July and mid-January, thanks to an exceptional measure. London estimates that the new system could attract up to 322,400 of its citizens within five years.