UK's scheme to offer Hong Kongers path to citizenship angers China
Iran Press TV
Friday, 29 January 2021 11:19 AM
The United Kingdom has launched an immigration visa scheme that will offer millions of qualifying Hong Kong citizens a path to British citizenship, with Beijing underlining that it would not recognize the immigration program, which comes in response to China's new security laws in the former colony.
The scheme, known as British National Overseas (BNO), is to take effect on Sunday and will allow some three million Hongkongers as well as their dependents to live, study and work in Britain for five years and eventually apply for full citizenship.
Based on a scheduled timetable, eligible applicants from around midday on Sunday can apply online and book an appointment to register their fingerprints at a visa application center and from February 23 some will be able to make the application via a smartphone application.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the scheme on Friday and said it honored the UK's commitment to its former citizens.
"I am immensely proud that we have brought in this new route for Hong Kong BNOs to live, work and make their home in our country," Johnson said. "In doing so we have honored our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong, and we have stood up for freedom and autonomy â€“ values both the UK and Hong Kong hold dear."
The British government said it was fulfilling a historic and moral commitment to the people of Hong Kong, after accusing China of breaching the terms of a 1997 handover by introducing security laws that London claims are being used to silence dissent.
Hong Kong has been governed under the "one-country, two-system" model since the city â€” a former British colony â€” was returned to China in 1997.
The BNO is a special status created under British law in 1987 that specifically relates to Hong Kong, with China saying the status is a violation of international law and interferes with its internal affairs.
The BNO scheme was first announced in July last year as controversial national security legislation imposed by Beijing went into effect in Hong Kong, allegedly curtailing political freedoms.
China says the law is necessary to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, following anti-government protests that escalated last year and plunged the city into its biggest crisis in decades.
Western countries have harshly criticized the law, claiming that it would undermine the city's autonomy and the "one country, two systems" principle.
China to 'no longer recognize' UK passports
Reacting to the Friday news, China lambasted the UK's move, saying it will "no longer" recognize the BNO passport as a valid travel document from January 31.
"Britain is trying to turn large numbers of Hong Kong people into second-class British citizens. This has completely changed the original nature of BNO," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing.
The South China Morning Post reported on Friday that China had sent an extra 100 cadre to work in its top Hong Kong office in the past year in a bid to ensure the city was ruled by patriots.
The Post, citing unnamed sources, said in the report that about 200 new cadres were transferred in the past year, partly to replace others in jobs on rotation, which resulted in a net increase of 100 staff.
The daily said the Hong Kong Liaison Office's expanded responsibilities included tighter supervision and policy implementation in the semi-autonomous city.
The new cadres were also tasked with helping contain the coronavirus, build bridges with young people who have shown their anger towards Beijing in often-violent 2019 protests and to identify long-term governance challenges, the report added.
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