China may not recognise British-issued Hong Kong passports

China may not recognise British-issued Hong Kong passports

Hong Kong History Museum
The standard and uniform of the former British Governors of Hong Kong are displayed at the Hong Kong Museum of History, Oct 16, 2020. (Photo: AP/Kin Cheung)

BEIJING: China's foreign ministry said on Friday (Oct 23) it may decide not to recognise British-issued passports for Hong Kong residents in retaliation of London's moves to open a path to citizenship for those holding the documents.

Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that Britain had "violated its promises" and "played up" the issue of the British National (Overseas) passports.

Britain said in May that it would allow holders of such passports extended stays and the possibility of citizenship, prompting thousands of Hong Kong residents to rush to renew or apply for them as Beijing steps up restriction on political expression.

READ: Hong Kong sees rush to renew UK passports as fears for future grow

Britain confirmed details on Thursday of its citizenship route for almost 3 million people in its former colony, saying there would be no quota on numbers, with five-year visas to cost £250 pounds (US$330) each.

Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997 and the sides have increasingly feuded over civil rights in the territory. Britain accuses China of failing to live up to its pledges to maintain freedoms in the special administrative region, while Beijing says London is interfering in its internal affairs.

Differences have sharpened since China in June imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong in response to months of anti-government protests last year. London suspended its extradition treaty with the territory and has offered political asylum to persons targeted under the new legislation.

READ: UK says China's security law is serious violation of Hong Kong treaty

"The British side violated its promises, insisted on going its own way and repeatedly played up the issue of BNO passports," Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.

"As the British side violated its commitment first, China will consider not recognising the BNO passport as a valid travel document, and reserves the right to take further measures," Zhao said.

The Hong Kong office of China's foreign ministry also urged Britain to "immediately correct its mistakes" regarding visa policy for those with BNO status.

More than 300,000 of Hong Kong's 7 million residents hold BNO passports, according to the UK – more than double the number four years earlier. Those who qualify can apply for visas enabling them and their immediate family members to live and work in the UK and eventually apply for citizenship, the British government says.

However, they must show they have the means to support themselves in the UK for six months, and will not be entitled to public support.

Source: Agencies/dv