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China 'will no longer recognize' UK-issued BNO passport for Hong Kong residents

 China said on Friday that it will "no longer recognize" the British national passport (overseas) for Hong Kong residents as Britain prepares to open its doors to millions more residents of the former colony after an offensive by security from Beijing.

The Chinese move follows a promise by the government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to provide a long-term sanctuary for Hong Kong residents who want to leave the territory.

Holders of British national (overseas) status, a British government legacy over Hong Kong until 1997, will be able to apply from Sunday to live and work in Britain for up to five years and eventually seek citizenship.

China 'will no longer recognize' UK-issued BNO passport for Hong Kong residents

"I am immensely proud to have brought this new route for Hong Kong BNOs to live, work and settle in our country," Johnson said in a statement.

BNO passport holders previously only had limited rights to visit the UK for up to six months, and no rights to work or settle.

Beijing was quick to hit back on the British exchange on Friday.

"As of January 31, China will no longer recognize the so-called BNO passport as a travel document and identity document, and reserves the right to take further action," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters. .

London says it is acting in response to a National Security Law imposed by China last year that has devastated Hong Kong's democracy movement and destroyed freedoms that were supposed to last for 50 years under the 1997 handover agreement.

Zhao said that an "outraged" China believed that Britain had gone far beyond the scope of the deal, thereby voiding it.

"The UK is trying to turn large numbers of Hong Kong residents into second-class British citizens ... and it has already completely changed the nature of the BNO," Zhao added.

It is unclear what China's statement means, in practical terms.

But it makes good on Beijing's threat to respond to Britain's extended visa offer with some kind of punitive reciprocal measures.

The threat of further action suggests that Beijing could be preparing more restrictions for BNO holders in the future.

Chinese officials already warned last year that they might consider ending BNO passport recognition.

At the time they said it would mean that BNO holders would not be able to travel to mainland China.

However, it is not clear whether the Chinese authorities would know who has the document.

Hong Kong people use their own Hong Kong passport or identification card to leave the city. To enter mainland China, they must use their Hong Kong passport. The only time they can use a BNO is upon arrival in Great Britain or another country that recognizes the document.

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