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China: Beijing hits out at London as British overseas passport process begins

News Agencies | Updated on: 1 February 2021, 8:44 IST

A day after London vowed 'not to look the other way' after Beijing said that it would stop recognising British National Overseas BN (O) passport as a travel or identification document, the Chinese government on Sunday called the move as "the logic of a brazen bandit".

According to South China Morning Post, officials have accused the UK of breaching past promises by offering a pathway to eventual citizenship for Hong Kong residents.

Online applications opened at 5 pm on the British government's website after months of diplomatic rows. London unveiled its plan last July to take in eligible Hongkongers in the wake of Beijing imposing the draconian national security law.

Shortly after the registration went live, Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted: "This is a proud day in our strong historic relationship as we honour our promise to the people of Hong Kong."

But in a statement soon after on its website, the cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office issued a "strong condemnation" of the move, accusing London of turning swathes of Hongkongers into its "second-class citizens".

The office claimed that the policy amounted to a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a treaty signed by both countries in 1985 which set out the ground rules for Hong Kong's development after its return to China in 1997.

"The British side did not keep its promise ... and even brazenly claim it was out of its respect for its historical relationship and friendship with Hong Kong to beautify its history of invasion and colonisation," it said as quoted by South China Morning Post.

"This is the logic of a brazen bandit. This is an open affront to the sovereignty of China. We sternly oppose that," it added.

Citing the British government's official website, applicants must fill in various details, such as their contact numbers and email addresses, and submit proof of documents to back their registration.

The UK Government first announced its plan to take in the city's 5.4 million residents with BN(O) status in July last year, shortly after the oppressive security law took effect.

Sam Lau, an investment banker, said that he was determined to leave Hong Kong by March and planned to apply when the app was launched.

Lau was concerned leaving his fingerprints would mean the visa centre could "sell his data" to the Hong Kong government.

The UK on Saturday has vowed not to "look the other way" after Beijing said it would stop recognising the BN (O) passport as a travel or identification document, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said, "Britain will 'not look the other way' when it comes to Hongkongers with BN (O) status."

Britain has doubled down on its offer of a pathway to citizenship for Hongkongers after Beijing stopped recognising the passports as travel and identification documents from coming Sunday with further retaliation a possibility, said Danny Lee in an SCMP opinion piece.

London's vow to stand firm on its visa scheme came as Hong Kong's Immigration Department instructed airlines on Friday night not to accept BN (O) passports as a travel document, according to a source with direct knowledge of the order.

The diplomatic row between China and Britain over the passports first broke out after London announced last July that it would provide Hongkongers eligible for BN (O) status a pathway to citizenship.

This comes after the national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong that criminalises any act of secession (breaking away from China), subversion (undermining the power or authority of the central government), terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life in prison. It came into effect from July 1, 2020.


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First published: 1 February 2021, 8:42 IST