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July 24, 2020

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China may not accept BNO as travel papers

CHINA yesterday said it is con­sidering not recognizing British National Overseas passports as valid travel documents, as the British side has violated its com­mitments on the matter.

“Regardless of China’s solemn representations, the British side insisted on engaging in politi­cal manipulation on the issue involving BNO passports,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.

The UK government on Wednesday issued a policy statement on the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa, announcing that it will change the arrangements for BNO pass­port holders and extend their rights of residence. The relevant measures will come into force in January 2021.

Wang said the British move “blatantly violated British commitments, violated inter­national law and basic norms of international relations, and interfered in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs,” and China firmly opposes to such moves.

The Chinese side “reserves the right to take further mea­sures,” Wang added.

Even before Britain’s move, China did not recognize such passports as a valid document for mainland entry by residents of Hong Kong, which returned to its motherland in 1997. Instead, it required them to use travel permits issued by China.

London’s decision, which could allow nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents to settle in Britain, came after a new na­tional security law took effect in Hong Kong.

Eligible individuals from Hong Kong currently can come to the UK for six months with­out a visa. With the rule change, they will have the right to live and work in the country for five years. After that, they will be al­lowed to apply for settled status and then again for citizenship.

Those eligible can access the British job market at any skill level and without a salary threshold, but won’t have access to public funds.

The UK introduced a special, limited type of British national­ity in the 1980s for people who were a “British dependent ter­ritories citizen by connection with Hong Kong.” The passports did not confer nationality or the automatic right to live and work in Britain, but entitled holders to consular assistance from UK diplomatic posts.

In an MOU exchanged be­tween China and the UK, the UK has pledged that BNO pass­port holders who are Chinese citizens residing in Hong Kong shall not have the right of abode in the UK.


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