HONG KONG – The Hong Kong government will cooperate with the central government’s retaliation against the United Kingdom, which will start issuing visas on January 31 for British National (Overseas) passport holders to move to Britain.
“The Chinese and UK governments had reached a consensus on how to handle the BNO passports,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said before the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday.
“If someone unilaterally deviates the consensus, it is reasonable for the other side to take some countermeasures.
“When the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and our country were unreasonably sanctioned by foreign governments, we have no reason to sit down and do nothing.”
She said the Hong Kong government had not suggested any countermeasures related to the BNO matter to Beijing, and she did not know of any proposal under discussion.
Lam made the remarks after Regina Ip, an Executive Council member and the chairwoman of the New People’s Party, wrote an article on the South China Morning Post on Sunday and suggested that the central government enforce its nationality law to disallow dual nationality in Hong Kong.
Ip admitted that the new route to British citizenship offered by the UK was a slap in the face of the Chinese authorities for enacting a security law. It would facilitate the departure of Hong Kong Chinese with means and would undermine support for Hong Kong.
She suggested that Hong Kong Chinese who acquired foreign nationality of their own free will be deemed to have lost Chinese nationality in accordance with Article 9 of the Chinese Nationality Law.
Ip’s suggestions echoed with those raised in a commentary titled “It’s time to end dual-nationality and build identity system for Chinese Hong Kong citizens,” which was published by HK01.com on December 14.
The commentary said people with foreign passports should not be allowed to enjoy civic rights, including low-cost medical services, public housing, free education and voting rights in Hong Kong.
Ip made a new point by suggesting that Beijing sets a specified cut-off date so that the 50,000 Hong Kong families who had been granted the British nationality before 1997 under the British Nationality Selection Scheme, as well as hundreds of thousands of Canadian and Australian passport holders, would not be affected.
On Tuesday morning, Ip said on a radio program that those who moved to Taiwan would not be affected because the island belongs to China. She added that those who lost their Chinese nationality would still enjoy the right to land in Hong Kong.
Chau Sze-tat, a political commentator and popular YouTuber, said Ip’s suggestions were targeting those pro-establishment people, or so called the “blue ribbons,” who planned to gain a British passport in the UK and then return to Hong Kong.
Chau said these people would probably give up their emigration plans as they did not want to give up their housing and social benefits.
Besides, people who relied on Hong Kong’s low-cost medical services due to chronic diseases might have to rethink whether they should move out, he said.
Meanwhile, Lam said Tuesday that district councilors would be required to take an oath to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the HKSAR when assuming office. She said district councilors should be treated as “public officers” as they were among the 1,200-members of the Election Committee that selects the Chief Executive.
Lam added that the government would submit an amendment of the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance to the Legislative Council soon to implement the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress’ interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law in 2016.
On November 7, 2016, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress endorsed the Interpretation of Article 104 that oath-taking is the legal prerequisite for public officers to assume office. Four democratic lawmakers were disqualified due to the oath-taking requirements and were asked to pay back the salaries they received.