UK to extend citizenship to Hong Kong residents if China pursues security law

WION Web Team
London, England Published: May 29, 2020, 03:08 PM(IST)

Riot police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against the second reading of a controversial national anthem law in Hong Kong, China May 27, 2020.  Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The offer would apply only to Hong Kongers who possess a document known as the British National Overseas (BNO) passport, which was granted to residents who registered for it prior to Britain handing Hong Kong back to China in 1997.

UK is mulling to opening citizenship path for over 300,000 Hong Kong residents if China pursues the repressive security laws on the former British colony, according to the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab.

The offer would apply only to Hong Kongers who possess a document known as the British National Overseas (BNO) passport, which was granted to residents who registered for it prior to Britain handing Hong Kong back to China in 1997.

More than 314,000 BNO holders reside in the semi-autonomous territory, according to the Home Office. Their status currently entitles them to seek consular assistance from the UK, but is not equivalent to British citizenship.

The move, which appears in outline to stop short of giving the BN(O)s a right of abode, is a response to growing Conservative backbench pressure on the Foreign Office to do more to help Hong Kong citizens fearful that China is about to extinguish their independence and political freedoms.

Raab said he would extend the BN(O) holders’ current right to visit for six months without a visa to an extendable 12 months, leading to a pathway for future citizenship. The proposal has been squared with the home secretary, Priti Patel, and the prime minister’s office, but details still need fleshing out.

Raab stressed the offer was dependent on the precise next steps China seeks to take to impose its security laws.

''In relation to BNO passport holders, currently they only have the right to come to the UK for six months,'' he said.

''If China continues down this path and implements this national security legislation, we will change that status. And we will remove that six-month limit and allow those BNO passport holders to come to the UK and to apply to work and study for extendable periods of 12 months and that will itself provide a pathway to future citizenship.”

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