Final yr, China launched a complete nationwide safety regulation towards Hong Kong that critics say has abolished town’s autonomy and precious civil and social freedoms, whereas Beijing consolidates its authoritarian rule over the territory. Since then, many outstanding activists and politicians have fled, whereas others have quietly begun to rearrange to maneuver overseas.
The regulation criminalizes segregation, subversion and collaboration with international forces and carries a most life sentence.
In accordance with info from the UK Dwelling Workplace, acquired by CNN via a request for freedom of data, since July 2019, when anti-government protests erupted throughout town, over 400,000 BN (O) passports have been issued to Hong Kong residents, greater than the whole quantity issued over the last 15 years.
When the Nationwide Safety Act was proposed, the variety of issued passports rose from 7,515 in June 2020 to over 24,000 in July. These numbers may be decrease than the variety of individuals making use of, because the coronavirus pandemic seems to have affected passport processing final summer season.
China has reacted angrily to the proposed plan, claiming it violates the settlement below which Hong Kong was handed over from British to Chinese language rule, which London in flip argues is undermining nationwide safety regulation.
Throughout an everyday press convention on Friday, Chinese language Overseas Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused Britain of “ignoring the truth that Hong Kong has been returning to its mom nation for twenty-four years” and violating guarantees made on the time of the handover.
He mentioned the BN (O) path to citizenship “critically violates China’s sovereignty, grossly interferes with Hong Kong’s affairs and China’s inner affairs, and critically violates worldwide regulation and elementary requirements of worldwide relations.”
From January 31, Zhao mentioned, China will not acknowledge BN (O) passports as journey paperwork or proof of identification, “and reserves the correct to take additional motion.”
It’s not clear what sensible results such a measure would have, as most Hong Kong residents, whether or not international or Chinese language, use domestically issued identification playing cards to enter or depart the territory, and likewise for many identification functions. Lots of those that are eligible for a BN (O) passport can even have the correct to use for and should already maintain a Hong Kong passport, which will also be used for these functions.
BN (O) passports have by no means been totally accepted for journey to China, the place ethnic Chinese language residents in Hong Kong use a return journey allow together with their Hong Kong ID card or passport.
Given the restricted scope of this rapid response, many have instructed that additional steps might be taken, particularly if a lot of individuals depart Hong Kong within the coming months.
“Thereafter, Chinese language individuals from Hong Kong who purchase international citizenship of their very own free will will likely be deemed to have misplaced Chinese language nationality, in strict accordance with Article 9 of the Chinese language Nationality Act,” Ip mentioned. “Once they make a acutely aware choice to go away and, implicitly, surrender Hong Kong, it is just proper that they need to be requested to make their alternative – China or a international nation – international citizenship or the correct to reside and the correct to vote in Hong Kong . “
Nor can BN (O) holders be the one ones leaving. Across the time of the give up in 1997, many Hong Kongers acquired international citizenship, particularly in Commonwealth international locations akin to Canada and Australia, each of which had beneficiant immigration insurance policies on the time.
In December 2020, former legislator Ted Hui dramatically fled Hong Kong and took benefit of a pretend environmental convention to skip bail and has now sought asylum within the UK. Nathan Legislation, a outstanding former legislator and chief of the umbrella motion in 2014, has additionally utilized for asylum there, whereas others have sought refuge in Germany, the USA and Australia.
Fleeing from overseas shouldn’t be at all times equal freedom: Legal guidelines and different refugees have complained of being tailed and even harassed by individuals they consider are brokers of the Chinese language authorities, a price that Beijing officers have denied. They’re additionally restricted in what communication they will have with household and buddies again in Hong Kong, for concern of getting them in hassle with the authorities.
Whereas most BN (O) holders residing within the UK are unlikely to be monitored on this means, the extreme political atmosphere surrounding the brand new system could make it tough for many who resolve they don’t wish to keep within the UK to return.
Ray Wong, an activist who fled to Germany in 2017 and have become one of many first Hong Kongers to be granted asylum in Europe, advised CNN final yr that he was lacking “mainly the whole lot in Hong Kong.”
“I miss being surrounded by Hong Kong individuals, being surrounded by Cantonese-speaking individuals,” he mentioned. “I even miss the very disagreeable local weather.”
CNN’s Jenni Marsh and Angela Dewan contributed reporting.
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