A threat to derecognize the British National Overseas passports held by residents of Hong Kong was issued by China on Thursday as retaliation against the recent decision of the United Kingdom to allow refuge to Hong Kong residents holding British passports and to ease the path for such citizens to get British citizenship.
Britain’s interior minister Priti Patel said this week that those Hong Kong residents with such status would be allowed to apply for special visas to live in Britain which could eventually be turned to complete citizenship. This program is slated to start from January 2021.
Such a decision by the UK has however been resented by China which has claimed that it amounts to the UK interfering in domestic affairs, according to a spokesman for its foreign ministry. The move was also described as a blatant violation of Britain’s promises, international law and principles of international relations.
“As the English side is the first to violate the promise, China will consider not recognizing BNO passports as a valid travel document, and reserves the right to take further measures,” the spokesman, Wang Wenbin, told a news briefing.
But the truth is that even prior to the decision by the UK, such passports were not recognized by China as being valid travel documents for Hong Kong citizens to enter mainland China. Hong Kong resident with such passports were instead required to use travel permits issued by China to get in to Mainland China. Hong Kong had been returned to China by the UK in 1997.
Instead, it required them to use travel permits issued by China.
London’s decision, which could allow nearly three million Hong Kong residents to settle in Britain, came after Beijing imposed a new security law that democracy activists fear would end the freedoms promised to the territory in 1997.
The decision of the Chinese government to impose the new and controversial national security law forced the UK government to create the policy that will allow opening up of the immigration route granting the right to live, work or study in Britain, said the British consulate in Hong Kong in a statement.
The UK has alleged that the new national security law imposed in Hong Kong violated the treaty the China had signed with the UK in 1984 that ensured the handover of Hong Kong to China. China has instead accused the UK of interfering in Hong Kong and Chinese affairs.
“The Chinese side urges the British side to recognize the reality that Hong Kong has returned to China, to look at the Hong Kong national security law objectively and immediately correct its mistakes,” China’s embassy in London said in a statement on Thursday.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)