China on Friday said it will “no longer recognise” the British National (Overseas) passport for Hong Kongers, as Britain prepares to offer millions of former colonial subjects a way to escape Beijing’s crackdown on dissent.
From Sunday, those with a BN(O) passport and their dependents will be able to apply online for a visa allowing them to live and work in the United Kingdom. After five years they can then apply for citizenship.
The new immigration scheme is a response to Beijing’s decision to impose a sweeping national security law on the city last year to snuff out huge and often violent democracy protests.
Britain accused China of tearing up its promise ahead of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover that the financial hub would maintain key liberties and autonomy for 50 years. It argues it has a moral duty to protect its former subjects.
But on Friday Beijing hit back ahead of the upcoming change.
“From January 31, China will no longer recognise the so-called BN(O) passport as a travel document and ID document, and reserves the right to take further actions,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
It is unclear what China’s declaration means in practical terms.