Beijing / London (dpa) – In the dispute with Britain over the controversial Hong Kong security law, China no longer wants to recognize passports that guarantee the holder British citizen status abroad.
China will no longer recognize the so-called BNO (British National Overseas) passport as a travel document and ID from January 31 and reserves the right to take further measures, said a Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman. Currently, about 350,000 Hong Kong residents hold a BNO passport that allows them to stay in the UK with ease. The response from London was not long in coming: they were “disappointed but not surprised” by China’s decision, the British government said.
In response to the Hong Kong Security Act, London announced new rules months ago, according to which BNO passport holders can obtain a five-year residence permit in the UK. That in turn would allow naturalization. The new regulation should apply from Sunday. In theory, up to 5.4 million Hong Kong residents are eligible for a BNO passport.
The London government announced Friday that it is expecting up to 322,000 residency applicants over the next five years. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “extremely proud” to have given BNO passport holders this new path to life in the UK.
“So we take into account the deep historical ties and friendship with the people of Hong Kong and stand up for freedom and autonomy – values we uphold in both Great Britain and Hong Kong.”
However, the Beijing Foreign Office spokesman sharply criticized the move: “The British side’s attempt to turn a large number of people in Hong Kong into British second-class citizens has completely changed the original view of the two parties of BNO” . said Zhao Lijian. London’s move is a serious violation of China’s sovereignty and grossly interferes with the internal affairs of China and Hong Kong. Beijing’s announcement came on Friday, just hours after London announced it would accept applications under the new rules starting Sunday.
The new security law has met with strong criticism in Hong Kong and internationally. China’s state security bodies have far-reaching powers in what is basically an autonomous Chinese special administrative region.
Although the more than seven million Hong Kongers were granted liberty rights and autonomy during the change of sovereignty in 1997, Chinese state security bodies in Hong Kong may in the future conduct investigations and exercise jurisdiction.