The crisis in Hong Kong and the “politicization” of citizenship

The people of Hong Kong – desperate for second citizenship

Second citizenship in times of turmoil – the commodity that offers security and peace of mind.

The crisis in Hong Kong doesn’t seem to end anytime soon

protests in Hong Kong - 2019

The crisis in Hong Kong seems to be worsening by the day. Even the most optimistic point of view would be that the situation is not improving as we have all hoped. Millions of HK citizens have been on the streets over the last 3 months, airing strong resistance to the policies of mainland China.

In the meantime, fearing the worse, many residents of Hong Kong have been rushing to secure alternative citizenship. Their goal is to obtain a better passport, that would grant them the right to reside in more democratic parts of the world. The obvious first choice are the passports (citizenship) of the USA and the European Union. The latest changes in the US eb5 program however made the US citizenship (and even a mere green card, which is still very far from citizenship) a very, very expensive undertaking.

The pro-democratic protests of the residents of Hong Kong showed clearly their strong pro-western values and orientation. And the western democracies, logically, are trying to show their support for the Asian financial hub. But has the west been honest and fair towards the people of Hong Kong? We believe not.

The hypocrisy of the United Kingdom

Hong Kong handover to China in 1997
The handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997
Prince Charles, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten. Margaret Thatcher and her husband are in the back row (above).

Yesterday, nearly 130 United Kingdom MPs called on the UK government to urge Commonwealth nations to grant people from Hong Kong citizenship to give them a chance to escape political unrest. “We urge you to seek international support for an insurance policy for the people of Hong Kong“, wrote to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, among others, Chris Patten – the last governor of Hong Kong. So is this a move in the right direction? Is this really going to work and HK citizens will be soon allowed to reside freely in the UK (and eventually even in Europe)? The initiative would “send a strong message to China that the people of Hong Kong are not alone“, the UK MP’s letter said.

Was the UK initiative a real desire to provide citizenship rights to the people of HK or was it only intended to “send a message to China“? We believe it is the latter.

UK vs China

Let’s see first how Britain treated the people of Hong Kong so far. We will also examine what might be feasible now, in the current political realms and what the western great powers may be capable (or willing) of doing.

Most importantly, we will examine the foreign policy of the United Kingdom and the other western powers, especially in relation to providing citizenship to citizens of their ex-colonies.

We will try to figure out what options are open for the Hongkongers in terms of second citizenship and how the current political climate is shaping the landscape of the second citizenship opportunities.

After all, the people of Hong Kong need democracy first of all. But they also need the feeling of being equal… something they definitely don’t get so far.

United Kingdom’s pressure on Portugal not to grant citizenship to residents of Macao

Macao handover to China 1999
Portugal handing over Macao to China in 1999

Recently declassified documents have revealed that UK’s officials have put pressure on Portugal not to grant citizenship to residents of Macao in order to prevent Hongkongers from asking similar treatment. After these facts became known, activists from HK pointed out how “disgraceful” Britain had been in its treatment of the HK’s citizens prior to its handover to China. A statement, not without a reason, we would add.

It was revealed from the documents that the UK home secretary Douglas Hurd had urged his colleagues to persuade the Portuguese government to tighten its criteria for granting Portuguese citizenship to Macao residents. In a letter to the foreign secretary G. Howe, Hurd alarmed that any Macao residents who obtained Portuguese passport would be able to reside and work in Britain, or any part of the EU. This has been obviously a very distressful thought for the UK government.

The British National (Overseas) passport – a shame for the UK’s foreign policy

British National (Overseas) Passport
The infamous BN(O) passport

In an attempt to keep Hongkongers off UK (and EU) shores, Britain invented and then granted the infamous British National (Overseas) passports to some residents of HK. These passports did not come with the right of abode in the UK (or in Europe). The BN(O) passports allowed the holder to visit the UK for 6 months, but only as a tourist. Having in mind that citizens of roughly about 30 countries in Europe (most of them without any historical or cultural relation with Britain) can freely reside in the UK, many in HK asked themselves the logical question: Are we (the Hongkongers) of lesser value for the United Kingdom than all other EU nations? Do not we at least deserve the same rights as the citizens of other EU countries, after being part of the UK empire for so may years (and technically even being British)?

The BN(O) passports set the path to a sort of “lower class (sort of) citizenship“, which was later adopted by few other countries as well. The prime example is the Latvian passport for “no-citizens”, given predominantly to the Latvian-born Russians in the country, depriving them from basic human rights and assigning them a “stateless” status. Some analysts go even further by drawing parallels with the Nazi’s policy on non-Germans prior to WW2 (although we think this is too far fetched indeed).

BN(O) passport holders are being even denied access to the fast-track UK border channels, which is otherwise accessible to non-Brits. BN(O) passport holders are subject to regular immigration checks and are even required to fill-in landing card. While this may look like just a “minor hassle” for some, it certainly harms the feelings of many others.

Britain’s aggressive policy against other countries granting citizenship to ethnic groups living abroad

So back to the UK’s MPs request to ease the citizenship procedures for the people of Hong Kong. Was it really an act of honesty and moral, or was it only done to anger China? Let’s see what the real policy of the UK about granting citizenship is.

UK’s stance on Russia’s initiative to grant passports to ethnic Russians living in Ukraine

war in Donbass - Ukraine
Refugees from Donbass (Ukraine)
After the change of power took place in Ukraine in 2014, the most southeastern area of the country, known as Donbass (Lugansk and Donetsk) denied the legitimacy of the new (now ex) President Poroshenko, which resulted in military standoff between the Ukrainian army and the Separatists.

On April 24th, 2019, the Russian president Putin signed a decree, allowing residents of certain regions of south-eastern Ukraine to obtain Russian citizenship in a simplified manner. This move was largely intended, according to Russian officials, to allow ethnically Russian refugees from the Donbass “war-zone” in Ukraine to seek shelter in neighboring Russia.

The UK’s response was issued without delay on the following day by the Foreign Office:

The UK condemns President Putin’s decision to sign a decree making it easier for Ukrainian citizens living in non-government controlled areas of eastern Ukraine to receive Russian passports. This step is the latest in a pattern of Russian behaviour aimed at threatening Ukraine’s security and sovereignty, and undermining its territorial integrity.

We don’t even want to comment the consequences of the UK’s policy on the perspectives of the people of Hong Kong to ever obtain UK citizenship.

Just think that China is now a superpower, nothing like it was back in 1997. And even then, the UK didn’t like the Hongkongers enough to grant them full citizenship.

The citizenship options for the people of Hong Kong

Most of the Hongkongers can live fine with their current passports. Others, who want to relocate to more “democratic” parts of the world, or just want to have a back-up option, should consider obtaining another citizenship.

One thing is certain though – UK will “highly likely” not grant “real value” citizenship to the people of Hong Kong, ever. On the other hand, should the Russia/China-West confrontation intensifies further, it is possible that at one point, China will unify all passports and Hongkongers will receive the same type of passports as all Mainlanders.

The solution

For those who can afford it, citizenship by investment is the easiest solution. In the EU – Cyprus, Bulgaria and Malta are the only countries that offer this possibility.

You can check Malta vs Bulgarian citizenship by investment comparison and the Cypriot vs the Bulgarian CIP compared.

If you want to proceed further with the Bulgarian Citizenship by investment program, please contact us for legal consultation.

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