More Hongkongers renewing their BNO passports

November 26, 2019 10:36
Many Hongkongers are still hoping for British support amid the current unrest. Photo: AFP

The overwhelming victory of the pan-democrats in Sunday's District Council elections unmistakably shows the extent of the public's dissatisfaction with the current administration, and how it has been handling the more than five months of turmoil in Hong Kong.

Beijing has reiterated its support for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who, for her part, has pledged to “listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect”.

That's clearly not enough. Amid the unrest, many Hongkongers have not only lost their trust in the government but have taken a not-so-rosy view of the city's prospects.

A local paper, citing data from Her Majesty's Passport Office, reported that the number of British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports issued in Hong Kong topped 34,000 in September, compared with around 20,000 passports in 2017 and 2018.

Amid the turmoil resulting from the now-scrapped extradition bill, more Hongkongers had applied for the renewal of their BNO passports in a single month than in any single year since 2013, except in 2016 when 37,501 BNO passports were issued.

In the first nine months of this year, close to 70,000 Hongkongers renewed their BNO passports.

I have talked with not a few people in the city who admitted that they wanted to renew their long-overdue BNO passports as the document would offer them a fallback position in case the situation in Hong Kong deteriorates further.

First issued in 1987, the BNO passport was granted by the British government to Hong Kong residents through voluntary registration before the handover on July 1, 1997.

The passport does not grant full British citizenship to its holders, but allows them to travel to Britain.

Last week, former Democratic Party leader Emily Lau Wai-hing urged the British government to give citizenship rights to BNO passport holders, saying that it has the "moral and political responsibility" to protect the citizens of its former colony.

But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has ruled out a change in the status of BNO. “We will not change or alter the status of the BNOs, but we will make sure that, in terms of their rights and entitlements they are entitled to expect within that status, they have our full support," he said back in September.

We just hope the outcome of Sunday's elections would pave the way for a peaceful resolution of the current political crisis, and there will be no need for our people to consider leaving our beloved city.

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EJ Insight writer