Connect with us

International

China To Stop Recognizing Special British Passports for Hong Kongers

Published

on

  • China says it will no longer recognize British National (Overseas) Passports (BNO) for Hong Kongers as a valid form of identification both domestically and for travel.
  • The decision comes just before the U.K. is set to give greater opportunities to BNO holders starting Sunday; allowing holders and their dependents to live, work, and study in the U.K. with a path to citizenship.
  • Still, China’s move will likely have little impact on BNO holders, as Hong Kongers don’t use the document for identification domestically or when traveling abroad
  • BNO passports were previously rare, but applications have grown in the last two years, especially after China imposed its controversial National Security Law.

China’s Stance on BNO Passports

Chinese officials announced Friday that the country would no longer recognize British National (Overseas) passports for domestic travel or identification.

These passports are available to Hong Kongers born in the territory prior to 1997 when it was still a British colony.

The decision was made on the eve of a new visa set to start on Sunday that allows BNO holders and their dependents to live, work, and reside in the United Kingdom. After five years, those individuals can apply for permanent residence. Twelve months after that, they can obtain U.K. citizenship.

The U.K. offered the visa as part of what it views as its obligation to Hong Kong. The UK has been extremely critical of China’s imposed 2019 National Security law, which effectively stripped Hong Kongers of many of their civil rights and privileges.

Following that, the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson renewed efforts to support Hong Kongers, including expanding the rights held by BNO holders, as well as allowing their dependents to benefit from it.

China has been furious with the decision, and beyond saying they will no longer recognize the passport, they also claim that the U.K.’s decision amounts to meddling in Chinese affairs. In the end, Chinese officials claim that the U.K.’s decision last October to expand the BNO effectively broached the 1997 transition agreement.

That agreement said that China controlled and ruled Hong Kong, while the U.K. would continue to support Hong Kongers and ensure their rights were intact.

For the U.K., that agreement was already heavily breached when mainland China began imposing its national security law on Hong Kong against the wishes of most Hong Kongers.

What Does This Mean for Hong Kongers?

China’s decision to stop recognizing BNO passports will lkely have little effect on Hong Konger since they don’t use the document when traveling within China or as a form of identification domestically. When traveling abroad, they use a Hong Kong passport to leave. The BNO is essentially only used when traveling to the U.K.

In a conference Friday, Chinese spokespeople did threaten that the government could take “additional actions,” but what that means is unclear. The British have made efforts to protect Hong Kongers who may be planning on leaving. For instance, the government has created mobile apps so that Hong Kongers can download biometric data and gain access to the visa process, rather having to be seen entering the U.S. visa office in Hong Kong.

Prior to the National Security Law and unrest in Hong Kong, BNO passports were rarely used. That changed dramatically in the last few years, with more people applying for the passports in 2019 and 2020 than in all the years prior.

Source: CNN

Currently, there are roughly 350,000 BNO holders, but around 3,000,000 people are believed to qualify. This means the U.K. could see a dramatic increase in immigration from Hong Kong, which officials hope will bring high-skilled workers and capital into the country.

See What Others Are Saying: (NPR) (WSJ) (SCMP)

International

First Person Charged Under Hong Kong National Security Law Found Guilty of Terrorism and Inciting Secession

Published

on

Dozens more are awaiting trial for breaking the controversial National Security Law, which is aimed at protecting Chinese sovereignty at the cost of basic freedoms within Hong Kong.


First Conviction Under National Security Law

The first person to be charged under Hong Kong’s extremely controversial National Security Law was found guilty of his crimes Tuesday morning.

A judge ruled that Tong Ying-kit was guilty of both terrorism and inciting secession after the 24-year-old failed to stop at a police checkpoint while on his motorcycle last July, which resulted in him eventually riding into police. At the same time, he was carrying a flag that said “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.”

According to Justice Esther Toh, that phrase alone was capable of inciting others to commit succession, she also that added that Tong understood that the flag had secessionist meaning in an effort to set aside doubts that Tong understood the flag’s inherent meaning.

Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director said,“The conviction of Tong Ying-kit is a significant and ominous moment for human rights in Hong Kong.”

“Today’s verdict underlines the sobering fact that expressing certain political opinions in the city is now officially a crime, potentially punishable by life in jail,” she added.

More Convictions Expected Sparking Fear Over Erosion of Rights

A long string of convictions will likely follow Tong’s, as over 100 people have been arrested under the ambiguous law that criminalizes many forms of freedom of expression under the guise of protecting Chinese sovereignty. Of those arrested, 60 are currently awaiting trial, including dozens of pro-democracy politicians who have been accused of subversiveness for their calls to block the government’s agenda in the legislature.

That has drawn particular concern among international critics who fear the precedent that will be set once it’s clear to politicians that failing to rubber-stamp the Communist Party’s agenda will result in prison terms.

It’s widely expected that as more people are found guilty, the few remaining protections of the city’s Basic Law, a British common law-inspired mini-constitution, will be completely eroded.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (BBC)

Continue Reading

International

Tunisian President Fires Prime Minister, Suspends Parliament Over Deadlock and COVID-19 Response

Published

on

President Kais Saied claims his actions are constitutional and have the support of the military, which has already blocked off government buildings. His opponents, however, call the move little more than a coup.


President Makes Massive Changes to Government

Tunisia’s government received a major shakeup after President Kais Saied fired the Prime Minister and froze parliament late Sunday.

The move, according to Saied, was meant to break years of parliamentary deadlock between Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and various political parties that have sturggled to find common ground. However, the timing comes just after a massive protest over how the government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic turned violent earlier on Sunday.

Either way, the move risks sparking a confrontation between Saied —who is backed by the army — and various political parties that view his actions as a coup.

The President’s actions have proven cotnroversial. Despite that, he has widepsread support after being elected in 2019 on a platform to fight corrupt politicians.

After the announcement, tens of thousands have taken to the streets in support of his decision to dismiss the Prime Minister and parliament, with many cheering as he appeared among the crowd Sunday night.

In recent months, anger at the ruling government has only increased as many feel the ruling coalition, largely made up of the Islamist Ennahda (“Renaissance”) party, have been ineffective.

It’s a common belief in Tunisia that Ennahda’s rule, alongside its tenuous coalition, helped exacerbate problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the economy shrinking by 8% as tourism plummeted.

One of the President’s supporters told Reuters and other outlets during Sunday’s demonstration, “We are here to protect Tunisia. We have seen all the tragedies under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

He mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood, which had a strong presence in Egpyt after the Arab Spring, becuase Ennahda has longstanding relationship with the group, although it has sought to distance itself as a more moderate political group over the last few years.

Now, for their part, the ruling coalition has argued that Saied’s move is clearly unconstitutional. Rached Ghannouchi, leade of Ennahda and Parliamentary Speaker, said that he is “against gathering all powers in the hands of one person.” His position isn’t without supporters eithers. Both sides have already gathered throughout the capital and have thrown rocks at each other.

Legalities of Article 80

The question across many minds is whether or not Saied’s actions are actually constitutional.

He claims that under Article 80 of the constitution, he can fire the Prime Minister, suspend parliament for 30 days, and appoint a premier to rule — all of which is true.

However, in order to do that, the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Speaker need to be consulted; something Parliamentary Speaker Ghannouchi said was never done. It’s unclear what Mechichi’s position is as he’s stayed inside his home all day, though the army says he is not under any kind of arrest.

In addition to those requirements, a Constitutional Court needs to approve the move, and one hasn’t been set up. As the German Foregin Office put it on Monday morning, it seems like Saied is relying on “a rather broad interpretation of the constitution.”

International observers hope a solution will soon be made to keep what seems to be the last functional democracy to come from the Arab Spring from devolving into civil war or dictatorship.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (BBC)

Continue Reading

International

South Korean President Makes BTS Official Presidential Envoys

Published

on

The position is largely ceremonial but will be used by the government to help give a friendly and popular face to national and international initiatives spearheaded by Seoul.


Government Recognition

The K-pop band BTS will be adding to its list of global impacts this year after South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed its members as Presidential Envoys on Wednesday.

The role will include attending international conferences such as the United Nations General Assembly in September.

At these events, BTS will perform “various activities to promote international cooperation in solving global challenges, such as improving the environment, eliminating poverty and inequality, and respecting diversity,” according to Park Kyung-mee, a Blue House spokesperson.

The band has already appeared at U.N. conferences multiple times over the last few years.

Just last year, the group gave a message of hope and reassurance through the U.N. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior appearances at the U.N. have been either as part of U.N. organizations or as private citizens.

Wednesday’s appointment will make them official representatives of South Korea, although they won’t actually engage in any direct diplomacy and instead will be used to promote the country’s ongoing efforts in youth-related projects.

Longstanding Policy

BTS’ success, alongside prior and current K-pop groups, has remained a masterclass of soft diplomacy by the Korean government. For decades, the Korean government has cultivated promoting cultural aspects abroad in the hopes of generating more interest in the country. There are hopes that such efforts will encourage more tourism as well as an elevated image when consumers consider Korean-made products.

Such efforts, beyond cultivating K-pop and raising its stars as semi-official government symbols, also include helping fund Korean restaurants abroad as well as free Korean-language classes taught by Professors of some of Korea’s most prestigious schools.

The news comes as BTS’ newest single, “Permission to Dance,” quickly took the #1 spot on the Billboard top 100. BTS is also partnering with YouTube to promote a Permission to Dance challenge on YouTube Shorts that will begin tomorrow and end on August 4.

Fans will be encouraged to replicate dance moves from the music video, and the group’s favorite clips will be put into a compilation made by them.

See what others are saying: (Yonhap News) (The Korea Times) (All Kpop)

Continue Reading