China takes issue with British visa policy for Hongkongers and threatens to stop recognising BN(O) passports

24-Oct-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

China’s foreign ministry has doubled down on its threat to stop recognising BN(O) passports, a day after the UK issued more details on advancing plans to open its doors to Hongkongers holding the status.

The British government is set to create a special class of visa for Hong Kong holders of British National (Overseas) passports as the first step in a new pathway to earning the right of abode in the country and full British citizenship.

According to a statement issued on Thursday, by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, there would be no cap on the number of BN(O) passport holders allowed to take part, and applications would open on January 31, 2021. Close family members of passport holders would also be eligible for the visas.

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“The imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong marked a clear erosion of the rights and freedoms for the people of this city. This new route to the UK is part of our commitment to the people of Hong Kong,” Andrew Heyn, the British consul to Hong Kong, said.

In a press briefing on Friday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was asked if Beijing would take retaliatory measures or stop BN(O) passport holders from leaving Hong Kong.

“The Chinese government has repeatedly made clear its strong stance on this issue, but the British side has insisted on… interfering with Hong Kong affairs and China’s domestic issues. It was only moving a rock to hit its own feet,” he said.

“As the British side broke its own promises, the Chinese government will consider not recognising the BN(O) passport as a valid travel document, and reserve the right to impose further measures.”

Zhao was referring to the argument that before Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, London promised it would not grant the right of abode to Hong Kong Chinese BN(O) holders.

Former Hong Kong secretary for security, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, previously said if the foreign ministry proceeded with the move, the city’s Immigration Department might instruct flight companies to stop selling tickets to BN(O) passport holders.

Passengers could be banned from leaving or entering Hong Kong using the passports, even though they could still do so with Hong Kong or Chinese passports.

In a statement issued on Friday, a spokesman for the foreign ministry’s Hong Kong office also said he “strongly opposed and firmly objected” to the British decision.

“We urged the British side to rectify its mistakes immediately, and stop its hypocritical show and political manipulation,” he said.

“By providing this new pathway, the British has publicly violated its own promise, blatantly interfered with China’s domestic issues and Hong Kong affairs, and seriously violated international law and basic principles of international relations.”

On Thursday, the British government said it was changing the entitlements attached to BN(O) status in response to the breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration by the Chinese government in restricting the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people, and eroding the high degree of autonomy of the city.

But the Chinese foreign ministry’s Hong Kong spokesman said London had twisted the 1984 declaration, which focused on what the Chinese and British governments must do in the run-up to the 1997 handover.

“Nothing in the declaration mentioned that the British has any responsibility regarding Hong Kong after the handover,” he said. “Britain has no sovereignty over Hong Kong… its so-called commitment to the people of Hong Kong was only wishful thinking and groundless.”

In July, the Hong Kong government objected to Britain’s decision to suspend its extradition agreement, and accused the former colonial ruler of double standards, gross interference in China’s internal affairs, and violating international law.

Last week, Finland also announced it would suspend its extradition agreement with Hong Kong.

Issuing a statement on Friday, a Hong Kong government spokesman said it had issued a notice to Finland’s consulate in Hong Kong to suspend its agreement with Finland on the surrender of fugitive offenders.


Category: China

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