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CE begins visit to Xi'an

Chief Executive Carrie Lam left Chongqing for Xi'an today and began her visit programme in Shaanxi Province.   After arriving in Xi'an, she met Shaanxi Governor Zhao Yide and attended a lunch he hosted.   Mrs Lam said she was pleased to visit Shaanxi for the first time as Chief Executive and congratulated Shaanxi on the successful hosting of the 14th National Games.   She expressed hope that Shaanxi would share its valuable experience, enabling the governments of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Guangdong Province and the Macau SAR to do a good job in hosting the 15th National Games in 2025.   Noting that Shaanxi is a key link for the nation's Belt & Road Initiative with its rich cultural history, the Chief Executive said the two places can build on the close trade and economic ties to enhance collaboration to contribute to the initiative and promote arts and cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world.   She added that the Hong Kong

BN(O) passport changes explained

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today announced the non-recognition of the British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) passport as a valid travel document and proof of identity.   With effect from January 31, BN(O) passports cannot be used for immigration clearance and will not be recognised as any form of proof of identity in Hong Kong.   The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the United Kingdom paid no respect to the fact that Hong Kong has returned to China for 24 years and insisted on introducing a so-called “bespoke” policy for Hong Kong residents who hold the BN(O) status to reside and obtain citizenship in the UK.   The act of the UK Government disregards China's solemn position and openly violates the British pledge. The UK has further expanded the scope of application of its so-called “bespoke” policy in an attempt to turn a large number of Hong Kong people into “second-class British citizens”.   The UK has completely altered the nature of the BN(O) passport. The so-called BN(O) passport mentioned by the UK now is no longer the BN(O) passport as originally understood by China and the UK.   This move of the UK has seriously infringed on China's sovereignty and blatantly interfered in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs. It has also severely violated international law and the norms governing international relations.   China expressed strong indignation at and firm opposition to such a move.   The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that with effect from January 31, China will no longer recognise the so-called BN(O) passport as a valid travel document and proof of identity and reserve the right to take further actions.   The Hong Kong SAR Government said the Chinese and British governments reached a consensus long ago on how to deal with the issue of Hong Kong residents holding BN(O) passports and exchanged memoranda on the understanding in 1984.   In its memorandum, the UK clearly pledged not to confer the right of abode in the UK on holders of the BN(O) passport who are Chinese nationals in Hong Kong.   The current move of the British side has substantively changed the nature of BN(O) passport, and is a fundamental violation of its pledge in its memorandum.   The Hong Kong SAR Government stated that as the UK breaches its commitment in the first place, it is legitimate for our country to take countermeasures in response.   The non-recognition of the BN(O) passport as a valid travel document is in no conflict with the Chinese Government's commitment in its memorandum, as well as the explanations of questions concerning the implementation in the Hong Kong SAR of the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China given by the National People's Congress Standing Committee.   The central government's adoption of the stance and policy in response to the UK's breach of commitment is a matter of foreign affairs and squarely within its prerogative.   The Hong Kong SAR Government will fully follow up on the necessary measures for implementing the relevant policy.   Following the announcement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today on the non-recognition of the BN(O) passport as a valid travel document and proof of identity from January 31 onwards, the Hong Kong SAR Government will take measures with effect from the same day.   The measures include that the BN(O) passport cannot be used for immigration clearance in Hong Kong. Hong Kong residents concerned may continue to use their Hong Kong SAR passports or Hong Kong permanent identity cards for entering or departing the city.   Since July 1, 1997, the Hong Kong SAR Government has been issuing Hong Kong SAR passports to Hong Kong permanent residents who are of Chinese nationality under the authorisation by the central government.   As at December 2020, the Immigration Department issued nearly 5.8 million Hong Kong SAR passports which were still within their validity period. At present, holders of Hong Kong SAR passports enjoy visa-free access to 167 countries and territories.   The Hong Kong SAR Government will continue to lobby more countries or territories for granting visa-free access to holders of the Hong Kong SAR passport for the travelling convenience of Hong Kong residents.   As for the possibly very few Hong Kong permanent residents who are not of Chinese nationality and who may only hold BN(O) passports but not any other valid travel document, they may apply to the Immigration Department for Document of Identity for Visa Purposes for international travel.   After submission of application forms and fees, the Immigration Department will complete the application process in five working days in general.   The Hong Kong SAR Government pointed out that this move of the British Government clearly uses the BN(O) passport or status which some people in Hong Kong still hold for political maneuver on the pretext of providing a new route for relevant people to reside and obtain citizenship in the UK.   “The hypocrisy of the British Government is also revealed by its lack of intent to confer the right of abode in the UK on people in Hong Kong as reflected in various amendments in its laws or policies long before Hong Kong's return to China.   “Since the introduction of the BN(O) passport, its holders have all along been subject to immigration control and limit of stay when travelling to the UK, and they are not allowed to work or study in the UK.”   The Hong Kong SAR Government added that Hong Kong residents who hold the BN(O) passport or status should discern the political intention of the British Government clearly.   “Apart from serving its political agenda, the move of the British side will also bring huge economic interests to the country. While the UK may be in dire need of talents and capital, it should not have made use of the BN(O) passport as a 'political cover-up'.”

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