The Hong Kong elite pushed for the abandonment of Western passports

Beijing is urging Hong Kong’s elite to give up their Western passports to be selected for the Chinese parliament as it seeks to stamp out foreign influence and tighten control of the territory.

According to a new delegate, a former delegate and another person briefed on the selection process, officials urged politicians and tycoons who wanted to represent Hong Kong on China’s top decision-making body to forgo passports or travel documents from countries like the UK.

The members of China’s National People’s Congress, which opened its annual meeting over the weekend, are elected every five years. In December, Beijing selected 36 delegates from Hong Kong, the first time since the 2019 pro-democracy protests, which China accused of “foreign forces” electing representatives from the territory.

While Hong Kong citizens hold Chinese passports, many residents of the former British colony are eligible for the British National (Overseas) travel document, which is a route to citizenship. A significant number also hold Canadian, Australian or US passports.

At least one NPC delegate who intended to seek another term was denied a seat because he held a BNO, the people said. While Beijing had previously said that BNO owners were entitled to the NPC, the “message was that you either give up or you don’t run,” said another former NPC delegate.

The Hong Kong Liaison Office, Beijing’s representative in the city, did not respond to a request for comment.

The pressure to waive foreign passports comes after Beijing instituted a “patriots who rule Hong Kong” policy, an intensive scrutiny program for leadership roles in the city, as China seeks to bar local politicians with strong ties to the West from powerful positions . The rules also apply to elections to the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s de facto parliament, which is now made up entirely of pro-Beijing MPs.

A Beijing-selected Hong Kong NPC delegate told the Financial Times that Beijing’s concern was “understandable given that the delegates were running for one of the country’s most important bodies.”

Holding foreign passports or travel documents could pose a security risk, according to Lau Siu-kai, a consultant in Beijing and vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.

“China faces increasing national security threats from the US and the West,” Lau said. “And when Britain offered BN(O) as a route to residency and citizenship. . . it raises questions of loyalty.”

While some countries are imposing citizenship requirements on elected officials, the situation is testing Hong Kong’s global elite, many of whom want to retain dual citizenship.

More than 160,000 Hong Kongers applied for British citizenship following the 2019 protests, and at least 105,200 have already arrived in the UK.

The scheme has angered Beijing, with former Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying “all our Chinese compatriots in Hong Kong are Chinese citizens”. China has also said it will not recognize British passports offered to former Hong Kong residents.

CY Leung, a senior Chinese official and former Hong Kong leader, told the FT last week that all Hong Kong political figures, including representatives of Beijing’s political bodies and members of the pro-government legislature, should “give up foreign passports [and] definitely British and US,” justifying this with the risk of sanctions.

“Would be the long arm of the United States [prosecutors target those who held on to their passports] as a US citizen. . . Acting against US interests or ideology?”

During a national security education event last month, Leung said those who refused to give up their documents were “making up nonsensical excuses.” The Hong Kong elite pushed for the abandonment of Western passports

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