China threatens to stop recognising UK National Overseas passports
China threatens to stop recognising British National Overseas passports held by residents of Hong Kong after UK eased their path to British citizenship
- Beijing is looking to retaliate for Britain’s policy of easing their path to citizenship
- Hong Kongese with such status will be able to apply for special visas from 2021
- China’s foreign ministry spokesman claims this is interfering in domestic affairs
China has threatened to withdraw its recognition of British National Overseas passports held by residents of Hong Kong.
Beijing is looking to retaliate for the former colonial ruler’s policy of easing their path to citizenship.
Starting from January 2021, those in Hong Kong with such status would be able to apply for special visas to live in Britain that could eventually confer citizenship.
China claims this is interfering in domestic affairs, calling it a flagrant violation of Britain’s promises, international law and principles of international relations.
Beijing is looking to retaliate for the former colonial ruler’s policy of easing their path to citizenship. Pictured: People in Hong Kong holding British passports last month
China (pictured, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin today) claims this is interfering in domestic affairs, calling it a flagrant violation of Britain’s promises, international law and principles of international relations
Spokesman Wang Wenbin said: ‘As the English side is the first to violate the promise, China will consider not recognising BNO passports as a valid travel document, and reserves the right to take further measures.’
Before Britain’s offer China did not recognise such passports as a valid document for mainland entry by residents of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule 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.
In a statement, the British consulate in Hong Kong said the immigration route granting the right to live, work or study in Britain was offered following the Chinese government’s decision to impose the new national security law.
Britain says the law breaches the terms of the handover treaty agreed in 1984. China accuses the UK of interfering in Hong Kong and Chinese affairs.
China’s embassy in London said in a statement: ‘The Chinese side urges the British side to recognise the reality that Hong Kong has returned to China, to look at the Hong Kong national security law objectively and immediately correct its mistakes.’
It comes as it emerged today young Hongkongers may not be given an automatic right to move to the UK and will need to prove they still live with their parents. Pictured: Priti Patel Tuesday
It comes as it emerged today young Hongkongers may not be given an automatic right to move to the UK and will need to prove they still live with their parents.
More details of the Home Office’s immigration plans to help grant rights to British National Overseas citizens who live in Hong Kong so they can come to live and work in the UK were announced on Wednesday.
Earlier the UK suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and slapped an arms embargo on the territory in response to China’s national security law.
But questions have remained about how the immigration measures can protect the rights of 18 to 23-year-olds, who are too young to have been able to register for BNO status like their parents.
The news is likely to spark concern among campaigners who have previously warned measures could exclude the youngsters – who are more likely to be the target of authorities as they have been most active in demonstrations.
Officials said the arrangements will prevent families being split up and allow BNOs to come to the UK with their spouses, children under the age of 18 and any adult children they have, as long as they are still a ‘family unit’. For example, if they still live with their parents or are dependants in some form.
The Government may grant permission for other cases under exceptional circumstances – such as for elderly parents of BNOs who need care.
Last week, Home Secretary Priti Patel sought to give assurances to MPs raising questions about the concerns over youngsters, saying that she was ‘actively looking at that particular age group and cohort’ and considering a ‘number of options’.
On Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: ‘Today’s announcement shows the UK is keeping its word: we will not look the other way on Hong Kong, and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people.’
Around three million people are thought to be eligible for BNO status and there are around 366,000 passports in circulation.
Those born after 1997 are too young to have been able to register, but some will be too old to be considered a child under the UK immigration system.
The Home Office is still trying to establish how many people it expects could come to the UK under the new immigration rules.
From January, BNOs and their immediate family can apply for 30-month or five-year visas to live, work and study in the UK and can seek British citizenship once they have been in the country for more than five years.
They will not need a job or a valid passport to apply. They can use an expired passport to provide their identity or the Home Office has pledged to help confirm the status of those without documentation.
Although applicants will be able to access healthcare and go to school, they will not initially have access to benefits and will need to prove they can support themselves financially for the first six months of their stay.
They also have to provide a tuberculosis test certificate and show a commitment to speaking English.
Criminal history will be taken into account but it is unclear how immigration officials will view convictions for participating in protests, which constitute breaking China’s national security laws.
Applicants will have to pay for the visa and the immigration health surcharge, but the cost of the fees are still being decided. If they wish to remain in the country permanently they will need to later pay a settlement fee of around £2,400.
It is unclear what support could be offered for applicants with financial difficulties.
While the upfront costs of the 30-month visa will be cheaper, it would have to be resubmitted for those keen to stay in the country after it expires.
Before January, people with a valid Hong Kong passport can turn up at the UK border and will be granted entry for six months. They can then apply for the new visas or any others as part of the immigration system where they meet the criteria.
This means young Hongkongers may be able to enter the UK without their BNO parents and then apply for the youth mobility scheme or as skilled workers under the forthcoming points-based system instead, if eligible.
Questions still remain over how the rights of BNOs will be protected if China resists the measures, and whether there are fears Chinese agents could seek to exploit the new immigration route to the UK.
While the Government cannot force China into allowing Hong Kong citizens to leave, it is expected to live up to its international obligations, a spokesman said.
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