UK defends Hong Kong passport rights against China | News | DW | 26.03.2021

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UK defends Hong Kong passport rights against China

China has tried to invalidate the special passport privileges granted to Hong Kong residents by the UK. Britain has rebuffed the move.

British National Overseas (BNO) passport (R) and Hong Kong passport (L) displayed

China has tried to get other countries on board in rejecting the British National Overseas (BNO) passport

Britain rejected the authority of the Hong Kong government to determine the validity of special passports offered to Hong Kong residents, a spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office said on Friday.

China and the pro-Beijing Hong Kong government on Thursday told 14 countries to stop accepting the British National (Overseas) passports (BNO) that have been made available to residents of Hong Kong in line with the 1997 handover agreement.

"The Hong Kong government has no authority to dictate which passports foreign governments recognize as valid," the British Foreign Office said. "The UK will continue to issue British Nationals (Overseas) passports which remain valid travel documents."

UK and China in tit-for-tat

The spat over passports is the most recent in a back-and-forth row between China and the UK.

Britain upgraded the rights associated with BNO passports from simple traveling privileges to a gateway to British citizenship after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the island last year.

In response, both Beijing and Hong Kong said they would no longer accept the BNO as a valid travel document.

Thursday's request to other countries to stop accepting BNO passports follows a series of sanctions imposed by the UK, EU, US and Canada against China over its treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority.

A diplomat in Hong Kong told AFP that the request to invalidate BNO passports abroad was unlikely to be successful as the government had no way to enforce it.

While Hong Kong residents may no longer enter China with their BNO passports, most also have Hong Kong passports which they can use to leave Hong Kong.

ab/msh (Reuters, AFP)