China on Friday (23 October) warned the UK against offering citizenship to Hong Kong residents and “immediately correct its mistakes” in order to avoid retaliatory measures.
In response to China imposing the national security law on Hong Kong, the UK in July reaffirmed its plan to offer citizenships only to those holding a British National Overseas (BNO) passport, reports the BBC.
Around 300,000 people currently hold a BNO passport, while an estimated 2.9 million people are eligible for it, according to the British Consulate General in Hong Kong.
Addressing the media in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Mnistry spokesman Zhao Lijian was asked if Beijing would take retaliatory measures or stop BNO passport holders from leaving Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported.
“The Chinese government has repeatedly made clear its strong stance on this issue, but the British side has insisted on interfering with Hong Kong affairs and China’s domestic issues.
“As the British side broke its own promises, the Chinese government will consider not recognising the BNO passport as a valid travel document, and reserve the right to impose further measures,”
Also in a statement issued on Friday, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry’s Hong Kong office also said he “strongly opposed and firmly objected” to the UK move.
“We urged the British side to rectify its mistakes immediately, and stop its hypocritical show and political manipulation.
“By providing this new pathway, the British has publicly violated its own promise, blatantly interfered with China’s domestic issues and Hong Kong affairs, and seriously violated international law and basic principles of international relations,” the spokesman added.
UK government analysts have estimated that up to one million people could take up the offer to live in the UK when the new visa becomes available in January 2021, said the BBC report.
But critics have argued that the new visa law won’t protect young pro-democracy protesters who were born after 1997 and are primarily targeted by the security law which targets secession, subversion and terrorism with punishments of up to life in prison.