China May Refuse to Accept British National Overseas Passports

China said it might not recognize British National (Overseas) passports as valid travel documents, as Beijing continues to threaten retaliation over the U.K.’s support for Hong Kong.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin raised doubts about the passport Thursday in response to a question about the U.K.’s plan to create a path to citizenship for 3 million eligible Hong Kongers.

The Chinese position is that the U.K. had broken a pledge made before Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule not to confer the right of abode to Chinese citizens in Hong Kong holding the passports.

“Given that the British side broke its commitment first, the Chinese side will consider stopping recognizing BNO passports as valid travel documents and reserves the right to take further actions,” Wang said on Thursday.

While likely to dial up the diplomatic tensions with the U.K., any move by China to invalidate the passports would likely have little practical significance for Hong Kong residents, who usually enter and exit the city using their local identity cards.

There are currently 350,000 holders of the BNO passports and they normally reserve the documents to enter countries such as the U.K., Japan or the U.S.

The decision to recognize that document lies with the country receiving the visitor.

The U.K. insisted that China should recognize BNO passports as valid. “They are legitimate international travel documents and that’s how you would expect them to be treated,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman James Slack told reporters.

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