China no longer considers British passports for Hong Kong residents a legal travel document or method of identification. On Friday, the Foreign Ministry said the Chinese government would no longer recognize a “British foreign passport”. With this step, China wants to prevent Hong Kong from using their British passport to enforce residency status in the United Kingdom. It is estimated that 5.4 million Hong Kong residents will qualify for British citizenship with the document.
China has tightened its grip significantly on the former British Crown Colony in recent months, including through the introduction of a controversial security law. This has put the rule of law and democracy in the semi-autonomous region under pressure, and according to critics, the constitutional model is increasingly similar to that of China. The law was also used to revoke recognition of British foreign passports. The direct consequences of China’s decision to take Hong Kong with a foreign passport are not immediately clear.
Thorn in anti-democratic developments on the side of the British government, which was concerned about Hong Kong’s sovereignty and self-government status. That is why Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced last July that Hong Kong residents who hold the so-called British overseas passport will be eligible for permanent residency in the United Kingdom. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents have requested such a document.
The additional rights for foreign passport holders will take effect from Sunday. Initially, the document allowed Hong Kong residents to stay in the UK for only six months, which was extended to five years. Hong Kong residents can also pursue five years of education and work on the island with this passport. Then they have a real chance to obtain British citizenship.