Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, yesterday welcomed announcements that the UK would offer expanded visa rights to British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong, but called on the government to take further steps to support Hongkongers. After over a year of protests in Hong Kong against political encroachment by Beijing, the Chinese National Assembly is preparing to force a national security law on the autonomous territory.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“May I particularly welcome the commitment in relation to BNO passport holders? The Foreign Secretary has heard me make that plea on many occasions in the past. He will be aware, though, that the BNO offer was closed in 1997, so the announcement today does not offer any protection to those born after that date, who are, by definition, the brave young Hong Kongers who are out there demonstrating on the streets, and who are most vulnerable and in most need of protection. Will he look at what we can do to assist these people?”
Responding for the government, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab MP said:
“I thank the right hon. Gentleman and pay tribute to him for his long-standing and principled position on this issue; he is absolutely right, and we appreciate all the cross-party support on this. He asked about those who do not qualify for BNO passport status. I would just point out that we are talking about over 300,000 people who do qualify. Of course, he makes a reasonable point about the cut-off date, but that would not apply to dependants.
“We have set out—based on principle, in the right way—the commitment that we are making but, as others have already mentioned, what will be important is that the international community comes together to ensure that there are options for the wider group to which the right hon. Gentleman refers.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“I am glad that the government is belatedly coming to the support of BNO holders but more must be done. International coordination to pressure China is important but we must be prepared to shoulder some responsibility should Beijing press forward with its plans. We have a historic obligation to Hong Kong and its people. We must support all of them in their time of need – not just those who were lucky enough to get a BNO passport before 1997.”