China has said it will not recognise the British National Overseas (BNO) passport as a valid document for Hong Kong residents from Sunday, after the UK said it would allow it to be used as a route to British citizenship.
The announcement from Beijing is the latest in a series of moves – including a strict new national security law passed in June last year – to exercise tighter control over the former British colony, which was returned to China in 1997 on a promise that its autonomy would be maintained.
The British government had responded to the crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement by offering up to three million holders of BNO passports a new path to full UK citizenship, within six years, if they leave the city to settle in Britain.
On a query about the change to UK citizenship rules for BNO-eligible Hong Kong residents from 31 January, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Thursday said: “China has repeatedly stated its position on this issue.
“The British side, in breach of its promise, has chosen to obstinately and repeatedly hype up the BNO passport issue to interfere in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs. This will only end up hurting its own interests.”
Mr Zhao said he “would like to reiterate our confidence in the promising future of Hong Kong”.
“No forces under whatever circumstances can erode the determination of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to uphold national sovereignty and security, safeguard Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and oppose external intervention,” he said.