UK offer of ‘rubber check’ for Hongkongers brazen interference in China’s internal affairs: observers

By Wang Qi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/25 20:08:40

Hong Kong residents sign their names on Friday in support of the Hong Kong national security law. A draft decision of the law was submitted to China's top legislature on Friday. Photo: cnsphoto

Some UK politicians' promise to expand the "right of abode" to tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents was dubbed void promises and brazen interference in China's internal affairs by Chinese mainland experts and Hong Kong residents interviewed by the Global Times on Monday.

Some UK politicians, including former Hong Kong colonial governor Chris Patten, suggested that the UK should expand the British National Overseas (BNO) passports to more Hong Kong residents or reconsider its stance on BNOs "given the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong," after Chinese central authorities proposed a new national security law for Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Based on the understanding and commitment of 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, the British Home Office ministers remain resistant to claims to a legal right of abode. 

But British politicians including Laurie Fransman, a barrister specializing in immigration, claimed there were no legal obstacles to granting full UK citizenship to BNO passport holders.

The UK politicians' proposal was ridiculed by Hong Kong residents. 

"Some people in the UK are playing cards of BNO once again… I hope the 'sunset empire' could also offer some BNO holders the round-trip flight tickets, just in case UK's outbreak becomes devastated and BNO holders could return to Hong Kong for help,' Leung Chun-ying, former Hong Kong chief executive, posted on Facebook on Monday.

Some internet users noted one of the important factors in the UK Brexit was avoiding refugees, and one commented, "What is good about being traitors to the UK?" 

The BNO was a kind of passport the UK gave to some Hong Kong residents before the 1997 handover. 

People with BNOs can enter the UK without a visa and stay for 180 out of 365 days, but do not have the right to live or work there. About 170,000 Hong Kong residents held valid BNOs as of 2019.  

Yin Hongbiao, a professor at the school of international studies of Peking University, told the Global Times that offering a right of abode was inconsistent with the basic facts and spirit of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. 

Yin cited the memoranda exchanged between two countries that those "British dependent territories citizens" have no right of abode and their documents like BNO passport are only considered a travel document by Beijing.   

Chinese analysts said the knee-jerk reaction and naive excitement among British politicians on Hong Kong affairs was brutal interference in China's internal affairs, which would eventually harm the Hong Kong people.

Tian Feilong, a Hong Kong affairs expert and associate professor at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times Monday that there were always some outdated politicians harboring colonial fantasies, trying to make their appearance on the Hong Kong issue. 

However, Tian said, the decrepit domestic economy, disappointing epidemic control, as well as the anti-immigrant social mentality, might curb the UK government. 

"Not everyone is Jimmy Lai, who can attract the support from external forces," said Tian. 

The UK government might set a higher bar to qualify a small number of politically loyal people with interests linked to the UK, Tian said. 

Such a move could "encourage more street riots, undermining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong society," said Tian. 

In April, Hong Kong media reported that eight Hong Kong residents with BNO passports were stranded in Peru amid the coronavius outbreak in Latin America. 

They were notified if they wanted to leave under BNO, they must apply to the UK Embassy in Peru. But the British government just "sat back and looked unconcerned," Tian said.

The rest with Chinese passports left Peru by a charter plane dispatched by the Hong Kong regional government.


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