Calls for extension of BNO rights at packed House of Lords event
On 4 March 2019, a range of speakers called for the extension of BNO rights at a packed seminar in the House of Lords. The event was hosted by Lord Alton of Liverpool, and notable attendees included Steve Double MP, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, and Sir Geoffrey Nice QC.
Lord Alton of Liverpool began the evening by calling for the UK government to allow BNO Passport Holders to use the e-passport gates at the UK border.
Lord Alton said: “I have written to the Home Office to say that while it is positive that the United Kingdom is looking to become world leaders in automated passenger clearance, it is puzzling that privileged access is being given to foreign nationals from the United States, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, while people holding British passports continue to wait in line. It is particularly confusing that the Hong Kong SAR passport has access to the e-passport gates, but BNO passports do not. What does it communicate to the rest of the world that British passports holders are being forced to queue not only behind every European, but also foreign nationals?”
He was followed by Benedict Rogers, Chair of Trustees at Hong Kong Watch, who emphasised the worsening human rights situation and Britain’s obligations to not forget Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration. Referring to John Major’s famous 1996 speech, Mr Rogers said “[The former Prime Minister] John Major promised that Hong Kong will never have to walk alone. It is our responsibility to live up to that promise.”
After this, Aileen Calverley, another Hong Kong Watch’s trustee and the convenor of Hong Kong Watch's BNO community, shared details of existing rights and highlighted that it was vital for BNO living in the U.K. to make the most of their right to vote and raise their concerns through letters and meetings with their local Members of Parliament. Most MPs have no knowledge of BNO. It’s important to get more MPs to support the rights of BNO.
5 BNO activists then made a range of proposals. Leo Sek represented a group called ‘Equal Rights for BNO’. He presented a 67 pages “Study on BNO”. Calling for granting the right of abode. Mr Sek argued that extending the right of abode in the UK to BNO holders does not violate the terms of the Joint Declaration.
Another activist representing a group called “BNO and CC equal rights rummage” with 112 BNO passport holders called for the UK government to extend the right of abode. The reason the UK home office rejected their citizenship is that BNO is 'Chinese'. The activist argued that this amounts to ethnic discrimination, and during the Q&A Sir Geoffrey Nice asked if the HK British Nationality Act of 1985 had ever been challenged at the courts with a judicial review. This activist also highlighted that: “according to the British Nationality Act of 1948, all Hong Kong citizens born in Hong Kong have the UK rights of abode. Since the enforcement of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962, our UK rights of abode was taken away. Therefore all Hong Kong citizens born before 4th February 1961 should be eligible to register as a British citizen.”
A young professional representing a group called ‘BNO rights in the Commonwealth’ called for the BN(O) Youth Mobility Programme in the Commonwealth countries as a way of immigration fast track. He then called for the participants of the Youth Mobility Programme in Canada to apply for ”Express Entry” to become permanent residents and then citizens.
Enoch Lieu recommended the government to allow BN(O)s who are already living in the UK to register as British Citizens as long as they meet the requirement of 5 years continuous residence, regardless of the type of visa they hold.
A student, representing ‘Youth for BNO’, called for more countries to offer to waiver visas for BNO holders. He highlighted the example of Vietnam, saying: “Take Vietnam as an example, currently, British Citizen passport holders can enter Vietnam for up to 15 days without a visa, BN(O holders), however are required to obtain a visa.”
Hong Kong Watch has formed a BNO community to support the work of BNO activists and take the campaign forward. Contact us to find out more.