On Friday (January 29), China announced that it did not accept the British National Overseas (BNO) passport as a legitimate travel document or, as of January 31, for identification.
The declaration comes as Britain plans, after a security crackdown by Beijing, to expand its doors to millions of inhabitants of the former colony.
The government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to provide Hong Kong people who wish to flee the territory with a long-term sanctuary.
READ: UK says with fresh Hong Kong visas, it upholds’ equality and sovereignty’
Holders of BNO status – a legacy of UK rule over Hong Kong up to 1997 – will be eligible to apply from Sunday for up to five years to reside and work in Britain, and ultimately pursue citizenship.
Previously, BNO passport holders only had exclusive access to enter the United Kingdom for up to six months, with no right to work or settle.
Beijing was quick to strike back on Friday with the British shift.
“From Jan 31, China will no longer recognise the so-called BNO passport as a travel document and ID document, and reserves the right to take further actions,” Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the foreign ministry, told reporters.
London claims it is moving in reaction to last year’s National Security Legislation introduced by China, which devastated the protest movement in Hong Kong and scaled back liberties under the 1997 handover deal for 50 years.
Zhao reported that a “indignant” China felt that Britain had walked far within the reach of the agreement and therefore annulled it.
“The UK is trying to turn large numbers of Hong Kong residents into second-class UK citizens … and has already completely changed the nature of the BNO,” Zhao said.
But with some kind of restrictive reciprocal action, it makes good on Beijing’s threat to respond to Britain’s expanded visa bid.
Beijing could be preparing further limitations for BNO holders down the road, the suggestion of more intervention indicates.
Last year, Chinese officials had already warned that they could suggest ending BNO passport acceptance. They said at the time that it would mean the BNO holders would not be allowed to fly to the mainland of China.
It is uncertain, however, whether the Chinese authorities would recognize who is in possession of the paper.
To leave the area, Hong Kongers use their own Hong Kong passport or ID card. They ought to make use of their Hong Kong passport to reach mainland China. On arrival in Britain or another country that accepts the text, the only time they could use a BNO is.