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Beijing Foreign Ministry Threatens To Block British Citizenship Offer To Hong Kong Residents

July 24, 2020 (EIRNS)—Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told the daily press briefing July 23 that China may withhold recognition of the British National Overseas (BNO) passports held by some 300,000 residents of Hong Kong, in which case holders could not use the passports to leave or enter Hong Kong. Another 2.7 million Hong Kong residents are eligible to hold BNO passports.

BNO passports in Hong Kong are available for Hong Kong citizens born before July 1, 1997, when Hong Kong was returned to the People’s Republic of China, after 150 years of British Empire occupation. The BNO passport allowed Hong Kong residents to visit the U.K. visa free for six months; they cannot work there, receive public funds or benefits, or establish abode, and must be able to support themselves.

On July 22, in retaliation to China’s decision to extend its national security law to Hong Kong, the British Empire released the details of its offer of British citizenship to 3 million residents of Hong Kong who are eligible for BNO passports, through the creation of what Home Secretary Priti Patel called “Hong Kong BN(O) Visa,” for which applications could begin from January 2021. The applications will be available to both Hong Kong citizens who hold BNO passports and those who do not, but are eligible. “I am not imposing skills tests or minimum income requirements, economic needs tests or caps on numbers,” she wrote. “I am giving them the opportunity to acquire full British citizenship. They do not need to have a job before coming to the U.K.—they can look for work once here. They may bring their immediate dependents, including non-BN(O) citizens...” They must then “remain in the U.K. for a period of five years,” and after 12 months can apply for U.K. citizenship. In the meantime, they can apply for work, abode, and have access to free education for children, and the same free healthcare as U.K. residents.

Responding yesterday to a media question, Wang replied: “In disregard of China’s solemn representations, the U.K. went ahead with its political manipulation over the BN(O) passport issue, openly breaching its commitment as well as international law and basic norms governing international relations, and blatantly interfering in China’s Hong Kong affairs. China firmly opposes this. Given that the British side broke its commitment first, the Chinese side will consider stopping recognizing BN(O) passports as valid travel documents and reserves the right to take further actions.”

The British Empire officially seized Hong Kong under the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, after its 1939 Opium War invasion, in which it turned the island into an international financial center for the illegal narcotics trade for the next 150 years.

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