• wethepeopleofhk

UK embassy Beijing: letters 23 June 2020 and 20 January 2021


[Quoted in full, unedited].



BN(O) Visa Route – response to misleading claims

UK Embassy Beijing, China 20 January 2021


Second article produced by the British Embassy that refutes inaccurate public statements on Hong Kong-related topics.


On 22 July 2020, the Home Secretary announced a bespoke immigration route for eligible BN(O)s from Hong Kong. The Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will allow BN(O)s and their dependants to stay in the UK for up to five years, with the right to work and study. In UK immigration jargon, this is known as ‘leave to remain’, the scheme will open to applicants on 31 January, 2021.


The UK Government’s decision to introduce the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa follows the imposition of the National Security Law (NSL) on Hong Kong by the Chinese Government in June 2020, in a clear breach of the Joint Declaration. Both the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary made it clear on numerous occasions that if China breached Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy the UK would respond by putting in place new visa arrangements.


Claim – The Joint Declaration provides no right or entitlement for the UK to interfere in Hong Kong beyond handover in 1997.

The Joint Declaration contains not a single word or article that confers any responsibility on the UK over Hong Kong after 1997. The UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of supervision over Hong Kong. So there is no “commitment to the people of Hong Kong” on the UK side.


23 October 2020 http://www.fmcoprc.gov.hk/eng/gsxw/t1826190.htm


Response

The UK accepts without equivocation Chinese sovereignty of Hong Kong and does not support or encourage independence. However, the Joint Declaration remains a legally binding international agreement.


In 1984 China made a legally binding commitment to the UK to ensure the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, maintain Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, and leave its lifestyle, social and economic systems unchanged for 50 years from 1997. The UK has the right under the Joint Declaration to hold China to this commitment.


Claim - The UK’s Hong Kong BN(O) Visa scheme is a breach of the Joint Declaration

The UK is “openly breaching its commitments and international law”. 23 July, 2020 MFA spokesperson Wang Wenbin


“The British side broke its commitments first”. 23 October, 2020 MFA spokesperson Zhao Lijian


Response

The UK has consistently fulfilled all of its obligations under the Joint Declaration. The Joint Declaration makes no mention of BN(O)s. The UK memorandum connected to the Joint Declaration is clear that BN(O) status does not confer the right of abode in the UK – that remains the case.


Claim – The Chinese may withdraw recognition of BN(O) passports

As the British side broke its commitment first, the Chinese side will consider withdrawing recognition of the BN(O) passport as valid travel documents. 23 October, 2020 MFA spokesperson Zhao Lijian


Response

The Chinese and British Governments exchanged memoranda of understanding attached to the Joint Declaration in 1984. The Chinese Government committed to “permit Chinese nationals in Hong Kong who were previously called ‘British Dependent Territories Citizens’ to use travel documents issued by the Government of the United Kingdom for the purpose of travelling to other states and regions”. Withdrawing recognition of BN(O) passports would be in direct contravention of this commitment by the Chinese Government.


Claim – The UK is manipulating international law

The UK has manipulated the rights and status of BN(O) passport holders, openly breaching its commitments and international law. 23 July, 2020 MFA spokesperson Wang Wenbin


Response

The UK has amended its own immigration rules to grant Hong Kong BN(O) Visa holders limited leave to remain in the UK. Hong Kong BN(O) status holders remain subject to immigration controls, and as such do not have the right of abode.


The limited leave to remain provides the right to work or study in the UK for those in Hong Kong who choose to retain their historic ties to the UK by taking up their BN(O) entitlement. Other than these changes, the UK has in no way altered, amended, enhanced or diminished the rights or status of BN(O) passport holders.

  • A BN(O) passport does not automatically allow the holder to permanently reside in the UK;

  • A BN(O) passport does not confer UK citizenship;

  • A BN(O) passport holder has no recourse to public funds or government benefits;

  • A BN(O) passport cannot be passed on to family members or children;

  • The BN(O) scheme remains closed to new applicants since 1997.

These facts remain unchanged. The UK is acting entirely in accordance with international law.


Claim – The UK is offering residency to Hong Kong citizens

“The UK has now, in total disregard of the strong opposition of the Chinese side, offered a route for BNO passport holders to the right of abode” 23 July, 2020 Chinese Embassy in UK


Response

The UK’s immigration policy is transparent and consistent. There has been no change in the right of abode conferred on BN(O) passport holders. The new route for BN(O)soffers no automatic right to reside in the UK and holders will be subject to the same application processes for permanent residency which have always applied. The BN(O) Visa offers limited leave to remain in the UK for up to five years. Chinese mainland citizens – or citizens of any other country for that matter - who have spent 5 years continuously resident in the UK are equally entitled to apply for “settled status” after this period.


Claim – The UK is offering citizenship to Hong Kong citizens

“The UK is offering a route to BNO passport holders for citizenship in the UK” 23 July, 2020 Chinese Embassy in UK


Response

A BN(O) passport does not provide UK citizenship and there has been no change to the status of Hong Kong-based holders of a BNO passport in this regard. The pathway to UK citizenship is a clear and transparent process to which anyone – including Chinese nationals - may apply.


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UK and Hong Kong: refuting disinformation

UK Embassy Beijing, China 23 June 2020


As Hong Kong has become a hot topic in recent weeks some media reports have contained errors and inaccurate information. In the below article we have responded to these misunderstandings.



Claim

The UK supports Hong Kong independence: The Paper published on 6 June.


Response

This is not true, the UK is clear that Hong Kong is part of China under the one country two systems framework.


The UK wants to uphold this framework which we believe is key to peace and prosperity in Hong Kong.


Claim

The Sino-British Joint Declaration is an historic document and has no relevance: China News published on 10 June.


Response

The Sino-British Joint Declaration, as it is known, was registered with the United Nations on 12 June1985 as a legally-binding international treaty that remains in force today.


This agreement between the UK and China made clear that Hong Kong’s high-degree of autonomy, rights and freedom would remain unchanged for 50 years - until 2047 - with limited exceptions such as foreign affairs and defence.


The declaration states: “The current social and economic systems in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, and so will the lifestyle”, including essential “rights and freedoms”.


The undertakings made by China, including the right to freedom of expression, an independent judiciary and the rule of law are important to Hong Kong’s prosperity and way of life.


Claim

Hong Kong affairs should only be an internal matter for China: Xinhua published on June 9.


Response

To maintain global peace and security all countries need to play their part in upholding international law.


The new national security law lies in direct conflict with China’s international obligations under the Joint Declaration which guaranteed Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy with executive, legislative and independent judicial powers until 2047. The declaration was agreed by the UK and China and registered with the United Nations. It remains in force today.


As a result it risks intensifying divisions in Hong Kong’s fragile society. That is why, alongside other countries, we urged China to reconsider so that we can increase the chances of a return to peace and reconciliation.


Claim

The West does not criticise the US over police brutality and is guilty of double standards: CCTV published on 6 June.


Response

The UK supports the right to peaceful protest wherever it happens in the world. In Hong Kong, we have always been clear that we support peaceful protest and that violence and vandalism from protests is unacceptable.


Our position is the same on the Black Lives Matters protests that have occurred both in the US, UK and across the world. Due to the Great Firewall Chinese citizens are not always able to see where the UK raises it concerns outside China. Below is a tweet from our Ambassador to the US that underlines this.




Claim

The people of HK welcome the proposed law: China News published on 13 June.


Response

It is certainly true that some of Hong Kong’s population support the law. But it is not the case that all of the population is in favour. Hong Kong is a city of 7 million. 2.9 million – less than half of the city - engaged in the survey orchestrated by the Central Government Liaison Office. A popular newspaper survey, Ming Pao, said 64% of the population oppose the law.


Claim

The NPC is acting in accordance with the law: BJ News published on 28 May.


Response

The new national security law has no legal basis and is contrary to both the Joint Declaration and Hong Kong’s basic law.


Claim

Foreign interference is the reason for the protests: QS Theory published on 30 May.


Response

People in Hong Kong are protesting because they fear that their way of life and high degree of autonomy is under threat.


The suggestion that the UK or other countries have somehow organised the protests is false. Instead of making false allegations we hope that China will work alongside the international community to preserve everything that has allowed Hong Kong to thrive.


As the Prime Minister has said:

Britain does not seek to prevent China’s rise; on the contrary we will work side by side on all the issues where our interests converge, from trade to climate change. We want a modern and mature relationship, based on mutual respect and recognising China’s place in the world. And it is precisely because we welcome China as a leading member of the world community that we expect it to abide by international agreements.


Claim

The UK is biased and not willing to condemn violence in HK: Sohu.com published on 9 June.


Response

The UK supports the right to peaceful protest wherever it happens in the world. In Hong Kong, we have always been clear that we support peaceful protest and that violence and vandalism from protests is unacceptable.


In our Six-monthly Report on the issue of Hong Kong to the UK Parliament, we said:

The UK has been consistently clear that violence and vandalism is unacceptable.

After the attack on LegCo on 1 July the then Foreign Secretary said:

No violence is acceptable.

The G7 leaders’ statement on 26 August issued a joint statement calling for the end of violence. An FCO spokesperson statement said on 11 November:

We are seriously concerned by the ongoing violence.

The Prime Minister has made his condemnation of the violence that occurred as part of the protests in the UK over the weekend of 13 and 14 June in his tweet.




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UK Embassy, Beijing, China