HK treasurer tells UK minister that BN(O) passports not recognised

Hong Kong’s treasury chief, in a meeting with a visiting UK minister, has reaffirmed that emigrants who want to withdraw their pensions from the city’s official fund cannot use their British National (Overseas) passports as proof of identity.

Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui also told Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the UK minister for the Indo-Pacific, that the city’s newly-passed security legislation will create a “stable and prosperous” business environment. She expressed concern at what she called the erosion of rights in the city.

Christopher Hui (left) and Anne-Marie Trevelyan (right) at a meeting on April 24, 2024. Photo: Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau.

Trevelyan was on a six-day visit to China to meet senior Chinese government officials and the Hong Kong authorities.

In a meeting with China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Deng Li on Monday, Trevelyan “made UK concerns clear, on human rights, the implementation of National Security legislation and connected cases in Hong Kong,” including media tycoon Jimmy Lai’s ongoing trial, according to Britain’s Foreign Office.

Trevelyan and Deng explored “mutual opportunities” for cooperation between Britain and China on artificial intelligence safeguards, trade, development, and climate change, according to the statement following her trip.

‘Deterioration of rights and freedom’

Meeting with Hui on Wednesday, Trevelyan raised concerns about the “deterioration of rights and freedom in the city” under the Beijing-imposed national security law, as well as Lai’s trial. “She also addressed matters of concern for the BN(O) community in the UK including the imposition of bounties,” the statement read.

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A China National Day patriotic gathering in Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday, October 1, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Trevelyan’s visit to Hong Kong was the first by a UK foreign office minister since 2018.

“We discussed our concerns around erosion of rights and freedoms, and areas of cooperation between two international financial centres,” she said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

In a statement posted to the bureau’s Facebook page, treasury chief Hui said Hong Kong’s domestic national security legislation was “conducive to creating a stable and prosperous business environment and promoting economic and financial development.”

It would also protect human rights and freedoms under the Basic Law and international covenants, allowing the city to attract more businesses and investment in a safer and more stable environment, he said.

Pension funds

Seeking to address “misunderstandings,” Hui said emigrants could not use their BN (O) passports to withdraw their Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) contributions on the grounds that they were leaving the city permanently because it is not recognised as proof of identity in the city.

The British foreign office statement did not address the matter of pension funds. HKFP has reached out for comment.

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File photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

The MPF said in 2021, after Hong Kong stopped recognising the BN(O) passport, that emigrants “cannot rely on BN(O) passport or its associated visa as evidence in support of an application for early withdrawal of MPF.”

Employees and employers in the city must by law contribute to the MPF or equivalent private funds.

Hong Kong has seen a mass emigration wave in the wake of Beijing’s imposition in 2020 of a national security law and of strict Covid-19 rules.

See also: Hong Kong anti-graft agency arrests 20 over alleged false documents in emigrants’ pension fund claims

Among the top destinations is the UK, where BN(O) passport holders and their dependents can apply for permanent residency after five years. They can apply for full British citizenship after another year.

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