Shanghai, China, Jan 29 (efe-epa).- China will not recognize British overseas passports from Sunday, when the United Kingdom will begin to accept applications from Hong Kongers, who are offered residence and residence permits to work for five years.
At his daily press conference, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said “China will stop recognizing the British National (Overseas) passports as travel and identification documents, and reserves the right to take other measures in the future.”
Hong Kong public television RTHK said the effect it will have for now on citizens of the former British colony with these documents is unknown, since they can access mainland China with permits issued by Chinese authorities.
In recent weeks, local press has said the Chinese government was considering a ban on BNO passport holders who are part of the Hong Kong civil service, and pro-government commentators asked authorities to prevent them from participating in local elections.
Nearly 3 million Hong Kongers would be eligible to apply for one of these passports, with which London will entitle them to reside and work for five years in the UK, and become full British citizens afterward.
Until now, BNO passport holders could only visit the UK for six months but had no right to live or work in the former metropolis.
British authorities expect some 320,000 Hong Kongers to move to the European country under this new program.
The initiative was announced by London in July 2020 after Beijing imposed, in response to continued protests in Hong Kong during the second half of 2019 against growing Chinese influence, a controversial national security law that provides penalties up to Life imprisonment for crimes such as secession or collusion with foreign forces.
The promulgation of that regulation put, in the eyes of the British Government, put the agreements of the Sino-British Declaration of 1984 in danger, laws which said Hong Kong would pass into Chinese hands in 1997 but would be governed under the principle “one country, two systems” for 50 years until 2047.”
This principle – the same one that governs neighboring Macao, returned by Portugal in 1999 – is what allowed Hong Kong to maintain a high degree of autonomy in monetary or border matters. It guarantees more rights for Hong Kongers than for the Chinese in matters of freedom of expression, assembly and press. EFE-EPA