In a bold statement the Prime Minister has announced possible changes to the immigration system, that “would amount to one of the biggest changes in our visa system in British history”. He stated that if China imposes the proposed security law, people in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports will be permitted to come to the UK without a visa and stay for 12 months. They would be given the right to work, and the Prime Minister stated that this “could place them on a route to citizenship”. This announcement affects the 350,000 people in Hong Kong who already have a BNO passport; potentially there are 2.6 million others are eligible.
BNO status was granted to all Hong Kong residents born before 1 July 1997 which marked the end of 156 years of British colonial rule of the territory. It is an example of “other sorts of Britishness”, all of which are second class when compared with British citizenship. A BNO does not currently have the right to live or work in Britain.
In the run up to the handover in 1997 Britain was criticised for not providing a proper security net for Hong Kong residents who were concerned about their way of life being unprotected by the change in administration. If the UK does end up granting a pathway to full British citizenship to BNOs, it will go some way to repairing that omission.