China has threatened to stop recognising British National Overseas (BNO) passports in response to the UK’s visa offer for Hong Kong residents.
After China’s controversial security law was enforced in Hong Kong last month, the British Government created a new route for those with BNO status to live and work in the UK.
It’s a move that could potentially extend to nearly three million people, offering each the right to apply for citizenship.
As tensions mount between China and the UK, which barred Chinese firm Huawei from its 5G network earlier this month, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin warned of further measures.
“The British side, in disregard of China's solemn representations, insisted on political manipulation on the British National Overseas Passport (BNO passports),” he said at a news conference.
“Blatantly violated its commitments, violated international law and basic norms of international relations, and interfered in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs.
“We firmly oppose this.
“Since the British side violated its commitment first, China will consider stopping recognising the BNO passports as a valid travel document, and reserves the right to take further measures.”
This week, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced the government has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong "immediately and indefinitely".
The move was in response to "grave concerns" over alleged human rights abuses associated with China's new national security law, Mr Raab said.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said she wanted to see Mr Raab “standing up for BNO passport holders” and called for her opposite number to summon the Chinese ambassador over the 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.”
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in London said in a statement Beijing had expressed its concerns over the UK interfering in Hong Kong matters “which are internal affairs of China”.
The controversial security legislation, passed last month, is aimed at curbing subversive, secessionist and terrorist activities, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s affairs.
Human rights groups warned the law could target opposition politicians seen as insufficiently loyal to Beijing for arrest or disqualification from running in September elections for the Legislative Council.
It follows months of anti-government protests that at times descended into violence in Hong Kong last year.