Beijing/London, January 29
Britain on Friday hailed a new visa offering Hong Kong citizens a route to citizenship after China’s crackdown but Beijing said it would no longer recognise special British passports offered to residents of the former colony.
Britain and China have been bickering for months about what London and Washington say is an attempt to silence dissent in Hong Kong, though Beijing says the West’s views are clouded by misinformation and an imperial hangover.
Britain says it is fulfilling a historic and moral commitment to the people of Hong Kong after China imposed a tough new security law on the city that Britain says breaches the terms of agreements to hand the colony back in 1997.
“I am immensely proud that we have brought in this new route for Hong Kong BN(O)s to live, work and make their home in our country,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, referring to a special British National Overseas (BNO) passport.
But China and the Hong Kong government hit back by saying neither would recognise the BNO passport as a valid travel document from January 31.
“Britain is trying to turn large numbers of Hong Kong people into second-class British citizens. This has completely changed the original nature of BNO,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing.
Beijing’s decision not to recognise the travel document is largely symbolic as Hong Kong residents would not normally use their BNO passports to travel to the mainland. A BNO passport holder in Hong Kong could still use their Hong Kong passport or identity card.
Beijing’s imposition of a national security law in the former British colony in June last year prompted Britain to offer refuge to almost 3 million Hong Kong residents eligible for the BNO passport from January 31.
The scheme, first announced last year, opens on Sunday and allows those with “British National (Overseas)” status to live, study and work in Britain for five years and eventually apply for citizenship. — Reuters
- Xi-led China says West’s views are clouded by imperial hangover.
- UK wants to turn Hong Kongers into its second-class citizens, says Beijing
- British PM Boris Johnson hails UK citizenship offer for Hong Kong residents
- According to the UK, China has been crushing dissent in Hong Kong