China to no longer accept U.K. passports amid tensions over Hong Kong control

The U.K. has announced plans to potentially allow millions of Hong Kong residents to receive U.K. citizenship, sparking the passport ban from China.

Updated: January 29, 2021 - 12:08pm

China said Friday it will no longer recognize the British National Overseas passport as valid travel documentation, after the U.K. said it will begin taking applications from Hong Kong residents for the BNO visa, which could lead to eventual citizenship for millions.

Under the plan, 5.4 million Hong Kong residents could become eligible to work and live in the U.K for five years, then apply for citizenship. Residents have been trying to leave Hong Kong as China increasingly cracks down on pro-democracy efforts there.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said after the U.K-Hong Kong plan was announced that his country's ruling communist party as of Sunday will stop accept BNO passports.

"This move seriously infringes on China’s sovereignty, grossly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs and seriously violates international law and the basic norms of international relations," he said.

When the U.K handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997, China agreed to the Sino-British Joint Declaration which states  China must respect Hong Kong's capitalistic system and rule of law for 50 years.

In June 2020, China imposed harsh security measures during protests and unrest, and the U.K government said the rights of Hong Kong citizens had been restricted.

With 5.4 out of the 7.5 million Hong Kong residents expected to be eligible for the visa, the U.K. expects as many as one million individuals to use the new citizenship opportunity. 

"I am immensely proud that we have brought in this new route for Hong Kong BNOs to live, work and make their home in our country," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

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