The Foreign Secretary should summon China’s ambassador to the UK, Labour has said, after a Beijing spokesman said China may stop recognising British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders.
Dominic Raab announced on Wednesday that from January new rules will allow Hongkongers who possess a BNO passport to live and work in the UK with a pathway to citizenship.
In response, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Beijing might stop recognising BNO passports altogether.
Later, China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming tweeted that the UK’s actions violate “the basic norms governing international relations”.
He said: “UK’s policy on #BNO seriously goes against its own promises, interfered in China’s internal affairs, and violated international law&the basic norms governing international relations. Such interference will be self-defeating. China will certainly take effective counter-measures.”
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said she wanted to see Mr Raab “standing up for BNO passport holders”.
At a press conference on Thursday, Mr Wang said Britain has previously pledged not to grant residency to holders of the passport.
He added: “Since the British side violated its commitment first, China will consider stopping recognition of the British National Overseas passport as a valid travel document.”
Ms Nandy called for her opposite number Mr Raab to summon the Chinese ambassador over Beijing’s comments.
She said: “The Government must not waver in its commitment to Hong Kong and the millions potentially at risk of being targeted by new national security legislation.
“Unlike the Foreign Secretary who says there is ‘little the UK can do’, Labour wants to see the Government standing up for BNO passport holders in Hong Kong and demanding a guarantee from China that their travel not be restricted on illegitimate grounds.
“The Foreign Secretary must summon the Chinese ambassador without delay to reiterate the UK’s commitment to the people of Hong Kong and demand assurances that the validity of British passports will be upheld.”
Hong Kong residents were able to register for a BNO passport before the handover of the territory to China in 1997, but this did not grant them the automatic right to live or work in the UK.
Around three million people are thought to be eligible for BNO status and there are around 366,000 passports in circulation.
Following the announcement on Wednesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The UK has a strong historic relationship with the people of Hong Kong and we are keeping our promise to them to uphold their freedoms.”