China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming has said that the Communist state will no longer recognise the British National (Overseas) passport as a valid legal document, suggesting that his country will block the three million Hong Kongers eligible for one from leaving the city.
Some 350,000 people in the former British territory have the travel document, but the British government offered to extend that to three million Hong Kong residents and increase entry visas to the UK from six months to up to five years from January 2021, in effect offering a path to settled status and British citizenship.
The visa changes were made in response to the Chinese Communist Party passing a security law in Hong Kong that effectively banned criticism of the government or support for independence. The British government said that the move tore up the “one country, two systems” agreement China and the UK made ahead of the handover in 1997.
Mr Lui counterclaimed during a press conference on Thursday reported by The Guardian that the UK had broken the 1984 Memorandum of Agreement, where Britain said it would not open up a path to citizenship for Hong Kongers with BNO documents.
“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,” Mr Liu said.
Beijing’s ambassador to London had made similar remarks before, asserting in early July Chinese dominion over all Hong Kongers. Mr Liu had said that “all Chinese compatriots residing in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals, whether or not they are holders of the British dependent territories citizens passport or the British national (overseas) passport”.
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The security law changes life significantly for Hong Kong citizens, according to BBC correspondent Stephen McDonell. He pointed out that the law now makes punishable with lengthy prison sentences the singing of certain political songs, encouraging hatred of Beijing or the Beijing-controlled Hong Kong government, or calling for greater autonomy or independence for Hong Kong.
Even wearing a t-shirt bearing the wrong political message could land a Hong Konger in prison. Dissenters also risk being sent to mainland China for their court appearance, which reportedly has an almost 100 per cent conviction rate.
Former employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong, Simon Cheng, told Breitbart London in February that when he was abducted from Hong Kong last year, he was taken to China and tortured and interrogated for 15 days, accused of being sent by the UK to foment unrest in the city.
Tensions between the UK and China have been increasing in recent months over the new Chinese security law, the coronavirus pandemic, criticism of the treatment of the Falun Gong and the Uighurs, and Huawei.
In response, Mr Lui claimed: “These actions have seriously poisoned the atmosphere of the China-UK relationship.”
“China threatens no one,” the ambassador said on Thursday. “We just let you know the consequences. 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.”
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