Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam, says that Chinese retaliation against Britain’s BNO visa offer is a ‘matter of course’. Lam claims that the UK has violated an agreement with China by expanding immigration to Hong Kong citizens who hold a British National (Overseas) passport.
However, Lam did say that she was unaware of any retaliatory measures being planned by China. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong’s comments come following a suggestion made by lawmaker and Executive Councillor Regina Ip that the Special Administrative Region adopt China’s nationality law, which prohibits dual nationality.
“Nationality is a sensitive issue in Hong Kong, with many citizens worried about their status prior to the UK handing back the region to China in 1997,” Lam said during a press conference.
Matter of course to take action
“That’s why, because of historical reasons, the Chinese and British governments had a consensus on how to handle the British National (Overseas) passport. If someone has now unilaterally deviated from the consensus, it would be a matter of course for the other party to take some action,” Lam added.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive said that her government has not proposed any measures on BN(O) passports. Until recently, BN(O) passports did not give Hong Kong citizens the right of residence in the UK.
In a column for the South China Morning Post (SCMP) Ip wrote: “It might be time for the Chinese government to stop allowing nationals of Hong Kong to hold dual citizenship.”
“The new route to citizenship offered by the British government is not only a slap in the face of the Chinese authorities for enacting a national security law, but also fraught with adverse implications,” Ip added.
In a radio interview, Ip issued dual nationality holders in Hong Kong with an ultimatum, saying it’s time to choose. “It’s obvious that they don’t want to be Chinese if they would endure six years of ’emigration prison’,” – aiming a dig at the length of time it takes to secure British citizenship.
Meanwhile, Ip argued that people emigrating to Taiwan should not be included in such requirements as the island is a part of China.
Chinese security laws
In July 2020, following the enforcement of new national security laws on Hong Kong by China, the UK announced plans to expand visa rights to hundreds of thousands of people who qualify for BNO passports.
As of 31 January 2021, Hong Kong nationals can apply for an exclusive UK visa that would allow them to enter the country to work or study for up to five years before being eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (settled status). After a sixth year in the UK, a citizenship application can be made.
Following the UK government’s announcement in July 2020, Beijing threatened to cease recognising the BN(O) passport as a valid travel document and claimed that it ‘reserved the right to take further action’. The Hong Kong government said it would ‘cooperate fully’ with Beijing.
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