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China to end accepting UK passports for Hong Kong citizens

Beijing/Hong Kong/ London: China on Friday said it will no longer recognise the British National Overseas (BNO) passport as a valid travel document or proof of identity.



China to end accepting UK passports for Hong Kong citizens
GNN Media: Representational Photo

The statement by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Friday shows irritation regarding the plan in which U.K. said it would begin taking applications for BNO visas beginning Sunday.

BNO passports were issued to Hong Kongers in 1997 when city-rule was handed over from British to Chinese. Until Sunday, Britain only recognized it as a travel document with third-country consular protection but not a path to citizenship.

Under the proposed plan, as many as 5.4 million Hong Kongers could be entitled to live and work in the U.K. for five years and then apply for citizenship. After the change Hong Kongers will not be permitted to use BNO Passports to board planes as Chinese government may force airlines to accept only their Chinese Hong Kong passports.

"From Sunday onwards, China will cease to recognise British National Overseas as a travel document and a form of identification, and reserve the right to take further measures," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a press conference.

The British government announced the change last year in the wake of China's imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong, saying that Beijing dishonoured promises under the Sino-British Joint Declaration on freedom and rights.

"The U.K. is attempting to turn a large number of Hong Kong people into second-class British citizens, which is a drastic change from the nature of BN(O) as understood originally between China and the U.K., and a serious violation of China's sovereignty," Zhao said.

Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens would be allowed to immigrate in Britain. After five years they will be able to apply to settle in the country and will be eligible to apply for British citizenship after one more year.

The British Home Office predicts between 123,000 and 153,700 eligible Hong Kongers will take up the new visa in its first year, with between 258,000 and 322,400 estimated to arrive over next five years.