China rejects BN(O) passport as travel document
Published: Jan 29, 2021 08:19 PM

Rumors busted about HKSAR's management on BN(O) passports 

China will no longer recognize so-called British National Overseas BN(O) passports as valid travel documents and identity certificates starting Sunday, the day when the UK opened applications for BN(O) holders in Hong Kong for British citizenship.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian announced the decision on Friday, accusing 10 Downing Street of “blatantly breaking its commitment by introducing the BN(O) policy, which attempts to turn a large number of Hong Kong people into "second-class" British citizens, despite the fact that it has been 24 years since Hong Kong returned to the motherland.

The Hong Kong goverment announced a few hours later that the BN(O) passport cannot be used for entering or leaving Hong Kong, cannot be used as any form of identification in the city, and airlines must ask passengers to show their Hong Kong passport or Hong Kong identity card as proof when flying to Hong Kong.
The UK’s BN(O) tricks grossly infringe upon China's sovereignty, interfere in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region affairs and China's internal affairs, and gravely violate international law and norms, Zhao said.  

Hype over BN(O) visas intensified as Sunday approaches, as UK’s BN(O) policy enables Hong Kong applicants and their dependents to live and work in the country for five years, and then apply for citizenship. 

The BN(O) visa, which was a travel certificate by China based on the MOU of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, has attracted attention as the UK government changed its entitlement after the enactment of the national security law for Hong Kong Special Administration (HKSAR) to enhance social stability and security on June 30, 2020.

Analysts said that Beijing’s move was not unexpected, and if the UK escalates its measures, China will fight back.

Tang Fei, a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Friday that the invalidation of BN(O) means that BN(O) holders cannot book flights or go through exit formalities using their BN(O) passports in Hong Kong. 

For those who really want to have UK citizenship after January 31, they might travel to the island of Taiwan with a HKSAR passport and then fly to the UK with a BN(O) passport, said Tang, noting that Taiwan is close to Hong Kong, and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party authority is opposed to the mainland.

The anti-government camp in Hong Kong and the West may play it up and create panic in Hong Kong society, Tang predicted. 

“They will be good at comparing Hong Kong people to the East Germans who crossed the border to Hungary to escape in the late 1980s, and playing up the tragic atmosphere of the Exodus, which would arouse the Western chorus.”

Behind the BN(O) incident is the long-term "fear of communism" at work, Tang said. “The biggest problem in Hong Kong is that assuming the greatest goodwill from Beijing with the greatest malice; and taking the indifference from West with good faith.”

The UK hopes to gain economic benefits by handling BN(O) and win praise from Western society by accepting Hong Kong people who are considered “semi-refugees” in the West, Tang said. 

According to the UK’s Home Office, 2.9 million BN(O) citizens are qualified to move to the UK. The office estimates that about 258,000 and 322,400 BN(O) holders and their dependents may come to UK in over five years, which could bring a net benefit of £2.9 billion ($4 billion) for the UK.

“It is impossible for Hong Kong people to enjoy the same conditions in the UK as they do in Hong Kong... The top priority for the city is to improve the economy and people's livelihood, and make staying in Hong Kong an easier decision,” Tang said.

Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beihang University in Beijing and member of the Beijing-based Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times that a large number of immigrants will put great pressure on the society and domestic politics in the UK, especially in the context of the epidemic, Brexit and the recession. 

Since last year, the HKSAR government has repeatedly denied the rumors regarding the BN(O) visa, including “civil servants in Hong Kong being required to take an oath and renounce the BN(O),” “BN(O) passport holders being prohibited from holding public office and deprived of the right to vote,” and even “all citizens must obtain government approval before leaving the city.”

Unlike the media hype, the countermeasures against the UK are relatively complex, and the intensity and specific measures should be determined according to the changes in the situation after the BN(O) application is opened, Tian said.