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China no longer recognizes British overseas passports

Beijing / London - In the dispute with Great Britain over the controversial Hong Kong security law, China no longer wants to recognize passports that guarantee the holder the status of a British citizen overseas.

China will no longer recognize the so-called British National (Overseas) BN(O) passport as a travel document and proof of identity from January 31 and reserves the right to take further measures, said a spokesman for the Beijing Foreign Ministry. Currently around 350,000 Hong Kong residents have BN(O) passports that allow them to easily stay in the UK. The reaction from London was not long in coming: they were "disappointed but not surprised" by China's decision, commented the British government.

In response to the Hong Kong Security Act, London announced new rules months ago, according to which BN(O) passport holders can receive a five-year residence permit in the UK. That in turn would enable naturalization. The new regulation should apply from Sunday. In theory, up to 5.4 million Hong Kong residents are eligible for a BN(O) passport.

The government in London announced on Friday that it expected up to 322,000 applicants for the right of residence in the next five years. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "extremely proud" to have given BN(O) passport holders this new path to life in Britain.

"We are thus taking into account the profound historical connections and friendship with the people of Hong Kong and we stand up for freedom and autonomy - values ​​that we uphold in both Great Britain and Hong Kong."

The Beijing Foreign Office spokesman, however, sharply criticized the move: "The attempt by the British side to turn a large number of people in Hong Kong into British second-class citizens has completely changed the original understanding of the two sides of BNO," said Zhao Lijian. London's move seriously violates China's sovereignty and grossly encroaches on China and Hong Kong's internal affairs. Beijing's announcement came on Friday just hours after London announced that it would accept applications under the new rules from Sunday.

The new security law had met with sharp criticism in Hong Kong and internationally. China's state security organs have extensive powers in what is actually the autonomous Chinese special administrative region.

Although the more than seven million Hong Kongers were guaranteed freedom rights and autonomy during the change of sovereignty in 1997, Chinese state security organs in Hong Kong will be able to carry out investigations and exercise jurisdiction on their own.

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