UK offers Hong Kong residents a route to citizenship, angering China
On Friday, Britain hailed a new visa offering Hong Kong citizens a route to citizenship. Beijing hit back and said that it would no longer recognise special British passports offered to residents of the former colony.
Britain and China have been arguing for months about what London and Washington say is an attempt to silence dissent in Hong Kong. Beijing says that the West’s views are clouded by misinformation and an imperial hangover.
Britain says it is fulfilling a historic and moral commitment to the individuals of Hong Kong after China forced an extreme tough new security law on the city. Britain feels that the new law breaches the terms of agreements to hand the colony back in 1997.
Referring to a special British National Overseas (BNO) passport, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “I am immensely proud that we have brought in this new route for Hong Kong BN (O) s to live, work and make their home in our country.”
He further added, “In doing so we have honoured our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong, and we have stood up for freedom and autonomy – values both the UK and Hong Kong hold dear.”
China has responded on the matter and said that it would not recognise the BNO passport as a valid travel document from Jan. 31. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing, “Britain is trying to turn large numbers of Hong Kong people into second-class British citizens. This has completely changed the original nature of BNO.”
In June last year, Beijing imposed a national security law in the former British colony. This law prompted Britain to offer refuge to almost 3 million Hong Kong residents eligible for the BNO passport from Jan. 31.
The scheme was first announced last year. The scheme will open on Sunday and will allow those with “British National (Overseas)” status to live, study and work in Britain for five years and eventually apply for citizenship. BN (O) is a special status created under British law in 1987 that specifically relates to Hong Kong.
According to government forecasts, the new visa could attract more than 300,000 people and their dependents to Britain which would eventually generate up to 2.9 billion pounds net benefit to the British economy over the next five years. The new visa will be of 250 pound ($340).
Eligible applicants can apply online and book an appointment to register their fingerprints at a visa application centre. They can do so from around midday on Sunday.
Though it is not clear if many people will actually take up the offer, but according to the Government, 2.9 million people and a further 2.3 million dependents will be eligible to come to Britain.