The Hong Kong government says it “deplores” and opposes the UK government’s decision to offer citizenship to Hongkongers with British National (Overseas) passports.
The statement came after the UK Home Office laid out pathways for the three million BN(O) passport holders in Hong Kong and their dependants to obtain citizenship. The UK’s home secretary Priti Patel wrote in a policy statement on Wednesday that the scheme was a “proportionate response to the situation which has arisen.”
The UK’s offer follows the enactment of a broad-ranging national security in Hong Kong which criminalises subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers.
The Hong Kong government criticised the move in a statement on Thursday night: “The high-profile measures taken by the UK Government on the pretext of the National Security Law are purely made out of political maneuver. They not only seriously violate the UK’s own pledge, but also seriously interfere in the affairs of the HKSAR.”
The government spokesperson pointed to the British memorandum under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration – a document addressing Beijing and London’s responsibilities as co-signatories to the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty. The memorandum states that those who are British Dependent Territories citizens ahead of the handover will be eligible to retain the right to use the BN(O) passport though would not confer the right of abode in the UK.
The government statement accused the UK of violating its pledge: “Given the history, it is hypocritical for the UK to deliberately violate its pledge made in the British memorandum associated with the Sino-British Joint Declaration paying no regard to the Chinese firm opposition and repeated representations,” it read.
In 2017 – 20 years after the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty – the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the Sino-British Joint Declaration was a historical document and did not have any practical significance.
The UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab gave an oral statement in parliament on Tuesday about halting London’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong and ending the export of firearms to the former colony.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that China would consider not recognising the BN(O) passport as a valid travel document and will retaliate as a response to the UK’s move.