Hong Kong tells consulates not to accept BNO Passports, Reuters says

Hong Kong has told about a dozen foreign consulates to stop recognizing the British National (Overseas) passport as a travel document, Reuters reported.a hand holding a book: A copy of the British National (Overseas) passport arranged in Hong Kong, China, on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Prime Minister Boris Johnson estimates about 300,000 Hong Kong citizens will take advantage of a new visa route to leave the former British colony and settle in the U.K., despite nearly three million people being eligible. A copy of the British National (Overseas) passport arranged in Hong Kong, China.

The news agency on Thursday cited a letter it saw that demanded the Hong Kong passport should be used instead. A senior Western diplomat said most countries would ignore the order, according to Reuters. Hong Kong’s government didn’t immediately respond to a Bloomberg request for comment.

Hong Kong and China both said in late January they would stop recognizing the passports, which Hongkongers normally use to enter countries such as the U.K., Japan or the U.S., as a travel document. The moves increased tensions with the U.K., but had little practical significance for the people of Hong Kong because they usually enter and exit the city with local identity cards.

The U.K. insisted last year that China should recognize BNO passports as valid. “They are legitimate international travel documents and that’s how you would expect them to be treated,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said.

The U.K. created the passports before handing Hong Kong back to China in 1997. They allowed holders to visit Britain visa-free for up to six months, but didn’t automatically confer the right to live or work there.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons last July after China imposed a sweeping national security law on the former British colony that a new “bespoke immigration route” will allow holders of BNO status to come to the U.K. without the current six-month limit.

BNO passport holders will be allowed to stay and work in the U.K. for five years, after which they can apply for settled status. A year later they can seek citizenship.

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