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How a British Passport Offers Escape for Hong Kongers: QuickTake

A copy of the British National (Overseas) passport.

A copy of the British National (Overseas) passport.

Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg
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As China has tightened its control over Hong Kong with a national security law introduced in June 2020, the UK has offered some residents of its former colony a potential route out: a proposal to allow longer stays in Britain and even a pathway to future citizenship. Tough Covid quarantine regulations in Hong Kong have added to the pressure to leave. While some 3 million or more could qualify under the program, so far only a fraction of that total have applied.

It has to do with giving expanded rights to Hong Kong residents with unique documents known as British National (Overseas), or BN(O), passports, and to those considered to be eligible for them. The UK created the passports before handing Hong Kong back to China in 1997. They allowed holders to visit the UK visa-free for up to six months, but didn’t automatically confer the right to live or work there. Holders also weren’t eligible to access public funds.