This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared ahead of a debate due to take place on 24 October 2019 on the motion moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) that “this House takes note of the recent political unrest in Hong Kong, and of the calls to offer residents of Hong Kong citizenship in another country”.
On 24 October 2019, the House of Lords is due to debate a motion moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) that “this House takes note of the recent political unrest in Hong Kong, and of the calls to offer residents of Hong Kong citizenship in another country”.
In March 2019, protests broke out across Hong Kong in response to a proposed extradition law between Hong Kong and China. The law was withdrawn in early September. As reported by the New York Times in October 2019, the protests have continued, with protestors calling for the introduction of direct elections for all lawmakers and amnesty for arrested participants, amongst other demands.
The protests have increasingly escalated since September, according to the Guardian. The police have reportedly started using live ammunition on protestors, injuring at least two. Protestors are said to have used Molotov cocktails, bricks and rocks to attack the police. On 1 October, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, released a statement which called for “restraint and de-escalation from both protestors and the Hong Kong authorities”.
The UK transferred sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997. At this time, Hong Kong residents could apply for British national (overseas) (BNO) status. This status gave residents a British passport and access to British consular support. It did not give them the right to live or work in the UK, nor would they be recognised by the EU as British citizens.
There have recently been calls for the UK Government to extend full citizenship rights to Hong Kong residents with BNO status. For example, the Guardian reported in August that Tom Tugendhat MP, chair of the Foreign Affairs committee, had called on the Government to grant “Hong Kong citizens full UK nationality as a means of reassurance amid the current standoff with Beijing”.
There have also been suggestions that Commonwealth countries could provide a second citizenship to Hong Kong residents. In response to a written question on 3 September 2019 about this idea, the Government said, “it is for individual countries to decide their own policy on citizenship issues”. With regards to the UK position, on 8 October 2019, the Government stated that holders of the BNO passport did not have the right of abode in the UK, and that “there are no plans to change the law in this respect”.
Lords Library notes LLN-2019-0133
Author: Sally Dray