CHINA is set to REJECT the UK’s offer to give Hong Kong residents British citizenships.
The move would be a massive blow to Hong Kongers eligible for a British National (Overseas) Passport hoping to flee to the UK after a Chinese crackdown on the city-state.
In a press conference today Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China firmly opposes the UK’s offer of residency to those eligible for BNO passports.
China could ditch recognition of a BNO passport as a viable travel document – barring people from leaving Hong Kong with them.
He said he considered the UK’s offer an unnecessary interference in Hong Kong’s affairs and China’s internal affairs and China would reserve the right to take further action.
A No10 spokesperson said today: “Its a fact that BNO passports are issued by the British government – they are legitimate international travel documents.”
Officials have said all efforts will be taken to ensure Hong Kongers with BNO status are able to travel to the UK if China did try and reject their passports.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said over the weekend if China did such a thing “ultimately, if they follow through on something like that, there would be little we could do to coercively force them.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel released more details yesterday announcing Hong Kongers born after July 1997 will have a right to live in the UK for five years if their parents hold BNO – and then they can apply to become British after six years.
Approximately 2.9 million people holding BNO passports will be eligible to live, work and study in the UK once the scheme launches in 2021.
Ms Patel has already handed Border Officers the power to grant Hong Kong residents with BNO status and their families leave to stay in the UK.
The decision to give Hong Kongers a path to UK citizenship comes in the midst of fiery relationships with China after it imposed tough new national security laws on Hong Kong.
The UK ditched an extradition agreement with Hong Kong and has refused to sell arms to the city-state over fears of Chinese influence.
The Government claims the change violated the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
The declaration was supposed to guarantee Hong Kong freedom from Chinese rule under the “one county, two systems” model for 50 years after the handover of the former British colony in 1997.
The law prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs.
Pro-democracy leader Nathan Law fled to the UK after the law came into effect this month.
The Government scrapped plans to give Chinese-state owned Huawei access to Britain’s 5G network as Boris Johnson vowed to take a “tough stance” where it disagreed with China.
Mr Johnson has warned he was “not going to be pushed into a position of being a knee-jerk Sinophobe on every issue to do with China.”
He added: “What we won’t do is completely abandon our relationship with China, China is going to be a giant factor in our geopolitics, we’ve got to have a calibrated response.
“We’re going to be tough on some things but also continue to engage (with China) on others.”