China warned that it may no longer recognize the British passports held by Hong Kong citizens

1 Aug, 2020 03:51
source: Singularity Financial

Singularity Financial Hong Kong August 1, 2020 – Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK, on Thursday issued a warning statement in the latest escalation of a dispute between London and Beijing which began when China imposed a draconian security law on Hong Kong, a former British colony.

The warning was made at a press conference by the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, in which he also warned that it was hard to imagine a global Britain that bypassed or excluded China. Decoupling from China would mean decoupling from growth and the future, he suggested.

He said it was the UK, and not China, that had changed, and should take full responsibility for the current difficulties in the relationship. The UK and China should have the wisdom not to allow anti-China forces and cold-war warriors to kidnap the relationship, he said. Great Britain, he argued, “cannot be great if it does not have independent foreign policies”.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered all Hong Kong citizens the chance to live and work in the UK. The UK government has estimated that as of February there were around 350,000 holders of British national (overseas) passports in Hong Kong, and 2.9 million people who could claim one.

Xiaoming yesterday warned the UK that China would take steps to stop recognizing British national (overseas) passports as valid travel documents, effectively banning Hong Kong citizens from leaving and moving to the UK.

“Since the UK violated the pledge and commitment on BNO we have to take other measures not to recognise the BNO as a valid travel document,” he said in a press conference on Thursday.

He insisted “China threatens no one” but “we just let you know the consequences.”

Xiaoming said: “China wants to be a friend of the UK and a UK partner, but if you do not want to be a partner and our friend, and you want to treat China as a hostile power, you will pay the price.

“We have a thousand reasons to make this relationship successful and not one reason to make it fail.”

The ambassador was reluctant to be drawn on the practical implications of refusing to recognise the BNO passport as a valid travel document, but said the move was a response to the UK’s decision to offer a right for all those eligible for a BNO passport to seek a path to citizenship in the UK.

He said the offer breached the 1984 Memorandum of Agreement that promised the UK would not provide a permanent right of abode to BNO passport-holders. “Since the UK have violated their commitment, we have to let them know that we have to take measures not to recognise the BNO passport as a valid travel document,” he said.

The refusal to recognise the BNO passport in theory raises the prospect of tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens being trapped in the city or being refused re-entry if they leave the country and try to return, although there was some confusion over the practical impact of the policy, since Hong Kong residents say they can leave and re-enter Hong Kong without showing a BNO passport. An ID card is normally sufficient to pass through immigration.